When God creates each and every one of us – putting the breath of life, the spirit into us in our mother’s womb – He gives us our span of life as a sacred time period in which we must strive to unite ourselves with Him. This is our true and only “purpose” in life: union with our Creator. Yet we spend so much of our life focused on other purposes and distractions. We strive toward Him in fits and starts, then we drift off in the other direction, turning our attention to the passing things of this world – then we realize our error and turn back to Him. This cycle repeats itself countless times until the day of our death.
Death is the end of our earthly struggle. All of our strivings toward God – or away from Him – come to an end, as we await the fearful judgment seat of our Lord Jesus Christ. Those who have departed this life have no more opportunity to “work out [their] salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) They await the judgment of our compassionate and merciful Savior.
Yet we who are still walking the earth, can work toward their salvation on their behalf. This is what it means to keep their “memory eternal”: to keep them in our prayers forever, to supplicate God, that He may have mercy on them and grant them eternal life. They desperately need this prayer; and it is only we, the living, who can offer it.
Prayer for the departed is a sacred and essential task in the Christian life. We have an obligation to pray for our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep – all of them, Orthodox or not, Christian or not. They need our prayers! What profound power God has given us, that He will listen to our supplications for them. Do not take this lightly, my beloved in Christ. We must take up prayer on their behalf, so that they too can receive God’s mercy and that eternal life of blessedness.
We should always pray for the departed during our personal prayers. The Church also gives us special opportunities to pray together for them. After a person falls asleep in the Lord, we commemorate them through a memorial service or Trisagion, which usually occurs 40 days after the falling asleep, then again annually after that.
However we can also pray for everyone everywhere who has departed this life. Four times a year, the Church has Saturday Liturgies which are called “Saturdays of the Souls.” Three of these take place during the Triodion period this month. On these days the faithful are encouraged to offer a koliva on behalf of departed loved ones, and to write their names down for commemoration. After the Liturgy we sing the memorial service and commemorate all of the names which have been given. (These names may be Orthodox and non-Orthodox.)
Pray for the departed! They need our prayers. Join us as we make our supplication to God for them on the Saturdays of the Souls, on February 10, 17, and 24.
May the memory of our departed brothers and sisters be eternal!