Commemoration of the Dead in the Orthodox Church

Traditional days and ways of remembrance

The fortieth day after death is considered to be the the most important day of commemoration. Orthodox Christians zealous to keep the memory of the departed faithfully keep these twelve times of commemoration:

  1. The 3rd day.
  2. The 9th day.
  3. The 40th day.
  4. The half-year anniversary.
  5. The annual anniversary.
  6. Meat-fare Week.
    (Panikhidas for our ancestors during the week, with a Universal Panikhida on the Saturday of the Departed)
  7. 2nd Saturday of the Great Fast.
  8. 3rd Saturday of the Great Fast.
  9. 4th Saturday of the Great Fast.
  10. Radonitsa (Tuesday of the 2nd week of Pascha)
    Kept mainly by Russian Orthodox
  11. The week before Pentecost/Trinity Sunday, and especially on the Saturday before Pentecost.
  12. The week before the commemoration of St. Demetrios

Note: The day a Christian dies is counted the first day of/after death. If a Christian dies on Sunday, the 3rd day is Tuesday (Sunday, the 1st day, then Monday, Tuesday), the 9th day is a week after the day of death, in this case, Sunday.

Traditional ways a Christian commemorates the dead are:

The submission of the names of Orthodox departed with the giving of alms (usually a monetary donation to the church) to the priest for commemoration in the Proskomedia before every Divine Liturgy.

Asking the priest to serve a Panikhida for certain of the departed. This may be served at the cemetery, or the church, on any day save Sunday. Again, one should give alms. Most priests do not accept "payment" for their service, but a priest will accept alms, and give them to the church or another worthy cause.

Prayer for the dead in one's private prayers, in the morning and/or evening.

On the days when the dead are commemorated in the church, it is traditional to bring "Kolyva", or boiled wheat, with sugar, fruit and/or nuts, as an offering. This food is blessed, and eaten by the faithful after the service.

Another pious tradition is the making of "St Phanourios bread", for the giving of alms to the poor, and prayers to the Saint. There is a tradition concerning him and his mother, who was a harlot and great sinner. His love for his mother caused him to pray for her incessantly. At the time of his martyric death by stoning, he could not even then forget his mother, and with the boldness that is peculiar to athletes of Christ, prayed: "For the sake of these my sufferings, Lord, help all those who will pray to Thee for the salvation of Phanourios' sinful mother".

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St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas