The Orthodox Church teaches that through our prayers, those “who have fallen asleep in the faith and the hope of the Resurrection” continue to have opportunity to grow closer to God. Therefore, the Church prays constantly for her members who have died in Christ. We place our trust in the love of God and the power of mutual love and forgiveness. We pray that God will forgive the sins of the faithful departed, and that He will receive them into the company of Saints in the heavenly Kingdom. The Orthodox Church remembers the departed in the prayers of every Divine Liturgy, but also has a special Memorial Service, said on numerous occasions.
After the death of an Orthodox Christian, a Trisagion and Funeral service are said in preparation for the burial of the body. Then the Church with the family, continues to offer memorial services to pray for the soul of the departed on the 9th day, the 40th day, the 6-month anniversary and then the 1-year anniversary of the date of repose. Memorials are then said annually on the date of repose.
In addition to these personal memorials that families organize for their departed loved ones, there are general memorial services said on four specific Saturdays set aside to commemorate the departed. These are: the two Saturdays preceding Great Lent; the first Saturday of Great Lent; and, the Saturday before Pentecost. In the United States the Service is also offered by some parishes on Memorial Day.
When a memorial service is offered, it is customary for the family of the deceased to bring a dish of boiled wheat, called kollyva, to the Church. Kollyva is made from boiled wheat berries with raisins, chopped nuts and powdered sugar are added. Additional ingredients vary–some include pomegranate seeds, parsley and anise. After the memorial service the kollyva is served to all who have attended. This wheat dish is a symbol of the Resurrection. When speaking of the Resurrection, our Lord said: “Unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24). If you do not know how to prepare a tray of kolyva, arrangements can be made for its preparation by calling the Church office 734-332-8200.
Please note that, in keeping with the ancient way in which we conduct our worship, Memorial Services may not be prayed on the Saturday of Lazarus through the Sunday of Thomas, on any Feastday of the Lord or any Feastday of the Virgin Mary.
“Eternal be their memory. Eternal be their memory. May their memory be eternal.” (The hymn chanted at the conclusion of the memorial service).