The Memorial of the Faithful Deceased


O Christ King, give rest to your servants’ spirits in peace among all your saints, where suffering does not reign, nor grief or distress, but the promised eternal life. – Mawtwa

On Friday, March 4th, the last Friday of the Season of the Epiphany, St. Mary’s parish celebrated the Memorial of the Faithful Deceased.  This commemoration is the Chaldean equivalent to that of All Soul’s in the Roman liturgical calendar, or the Saturday of the Dead in the Byzantine liturgical calendars.  In these Eastern rites, the date is the eight Sunday before Easter, and two before Lent, but on that day, the members of those churches traditionally began to abstain from meat.  But in our Chaldean (Church of the East) practice, this date marks the last Friday before entry into Lent itself.

This day is a day that our people recognize by tradition.  The names of dead friends and relatives are presented to the priest and are then read aloud during the service.  This is due to the apostolic {and Old Testament} belief that prayers for the dead avail them.  In his Mystagogical Orations, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, a doctor of the Catholic Church whose writings are greatly appreciated by our rite, talks of petitions “[on behalf also of all] who in past years have fallen asleep among us, believing that it will be a very great benefit to the souls, for whom the supplication is put up, while that holy and most awful sacrifice is set forth.”

Apologists will readily recognize that quote as one used to defend the doctrine of Purgatory, which explains theologically what the Church has practiced and believed from Her beginning.  We pray that they may be forgiven their sins, and that their oblation may be accepted with that of the saints.  We pray that at the resurrection they will be able to stand before Him and sing His glory with the hosts above.

The timing of this feast, at the gates of the onset of Lent, is not an accident.  We remember, in the season of Epiphany, that Christ revealed to us Truth, the Trinity, and hence enlightened our minds that we may be saved from the darkness of ignorance.   As we get ready to enter into contest with Evil with the ascetic labor, we remember those who have finished their struggles and race in this life.  We pray to Christ that when He reveals Himself again in glory, in His mercy He will forgive them.

Let us enter into Lent hopeful, remembering also of the communion of saints, knowing that we pray for those who have gone on before us, just as they will pray for us before the throne of the Compassionate One, our Lord and King, our God.  Let us now labor, awaiting His second dawning.

From the silence his day dawns, and his saints are all awake, and all those who labored, wearied and prepared are lighting their lamps.
 – Morning Hymn of Mar Ephrem

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One Response to “The Memorial of the Faithful Deceased”

  1. Catherine Alexander Says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful tradition with us! I blogged it as well so that more will hopefully come to know and appreciate it.

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