On this day, Soul Saturday, according to the order instituted by our Holy Fathers, we celebrate the memorial of all Orthodox Christians who have fallen asleep from the beginning, of the ages in faith and in the hope of the resurrection and of life eternal, our brethren in Christ
Verse: When Thou O judge of all, shall sit to judge the earth.
Verse: May Thou judge me also, to hear Thy words: ‘Come hither’
Staritsa Athanasia (Anastasia) Logacheva, a spiritual daughter of St. Seraphim of Sarov
Fr. Seraphim Rose
The state of souls until the Last Judgment
Some souls find themselves (after the forty days) in a condition of foretasting eternal joy and blessedness, and others in fear of the eternal tortures which will come in full after the Last Judgment. Until then changes are still possible in the condition of the souls, especially through offering for them the Bloodless Sacrifice (commemoration at the Liturgy), and likewise by other prayers.
The benefits of prayer, both public and private, for the souls in hell have been described in many Lives of Saints and ascetics and in Patristic writings. In the Life of the third-century Martyr Perpetua, for example, the fate of her brother Dimocrates was revealed to her in the image of a cistern filled with water which was too high for him to reach in the filthy, intensely hot place where he was confined. Through her intense prayer for a whole day and night the cistern became accessible to him, and she saw him in a bright place. By this she understood that he had been released from punishment.
In the Life of an ascetic who died in our own 20th century there is a similar account. The Life of the Nun Athanasia (Anastasia Logacheva), a spiritual daughter of St. Seraphim of Sarov, relates:
“Now she undertook a labor of prayer for her own brother by blood, Paul, who had hanged himself while drunk. She went at first to Pelagia Ivanovna, the blessed one who lived in the Diveevo Convent, to take counsel from her as to what she could do to make easier the lot beyond the grave of her brother, who had unfortunately and dishonorably ended his earthly life. After counsel, the following was decided: Anastasia would lock herself up in her cell to fast and pray for him, every day reading 150 times the prayer, ‘Virgin Mother of God, rejoice…’ At the end of forty days she saw a great abyss; at the bottom of it was a bloody stone, and upon it there lay two men with iron chains on their necks; one of them was her brother. When she informed the blessed Pelagia about this vision, the latter advised her to repeat this labor. At the end of the second forty days she saw the same abyss, the same stone on which were the same two people with chains around their necks, but her brother was now standing and was going around the stone, but then fell again on the stone; the chain was still around his neck. After she informed Pelagia Ivanovna about this dream, the latter advised her to perform the same labor for a third time. After forty more days Anastasia saw the same abyss and the same stone, but now there was only one man, unknown to her, and her brother had gone away from the stone and was hidden from sight. The one who remained on the rock said, ‘It is good for you; you have powerful intercessors on the earth.’ After this, blessed Pelagia said, ‘Your brother has been delivered from tortures, but he has not received blessedness’.”
There are many similar incidents in the Lives of Orthodox Saints and ascetics. If anyone is inclined to be too literal-minded about such visions, it should perhaps be said that of course the forms which such visions take (usually in dreams) are not necessarily “photographic” views of the way the soul appears in the other world, but rather are images which convey the spiritual truth of the soul’s betterment in the other world through the prayers of those who remain on earth.
Excerpts from Fr. Seraphim Rose, The Soul After Death (Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1980)
The Saturday before the Sunday of the Last Judgement
Fr. Alexander Schmemann
On the eve of that day (Meat-Fare Saturday), the Church invites us to a universal commemoration of all those who have “fallen asleep in the hope of resurrection and life eternal.” This is indeed the Church’s great day of prayer for her departed members. To understand the meaning of this connection between Lent and the prayer for the dead, one must remember that Christianity is the religion of love. Christ left with His disciples not a doctrine of individual salvation but a new commandment “that they love one another,” and He added: “By this shall all know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love is thus the foundation, the very life of the Church which is, in the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the “unity of faith and love.” Sin is always absence of love, and therefore separation, isolation, war of all against all. The new life given by Christ and conveyed to us by the Church is, first of all, a life of reconciliation, of “gathering into oneness of those who were dispersed,” the restoration of love broken by sin. But how can we even begin our return to God and our reconciliation with Him if in ourselves we do not return to the unique new commandment of love? Praying for the dead is an essential expression of the Church as love. We ask God to remember those whom we remember and we remember them because we love them. Praying for them we meet them in Christ who is Love and who, because He is Love, overcomes death which is the ultimate victory of separation and lovelessness. In Christ there is no difference between living and dead because all are alive in Him. He is the Life and that Life is the light of man. Loving Christ, we love all those who are in Him; loving those who are in Him, we love Christ: this is the law of the Church and the obvious rationale for her of prayer for the dead. It is truly our love in Christ that keeps them alive because it keeps them “in Christ,” and how wrong, how hopelessly wrong, are those Western Christians who either reduce prayer for the dead to a juridical doctrine of “merits” and “compensations” or simply reject it as useless. The great Vigil for the Dead of Meat-Fare Saturday serves as a pattern for all other commemorations of the departed and it is repeated on the second, third, and fourth Saturdays of Lent. (Source: Great Lent, Journey to Pascha. Alexander Schmemann, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press: 1969. )
Saint Nikolai Velimirovič
Often unexpected misfortune befalls us, and in vain we ask “why?” The Church of Christ alone knows how to explain the cause of every misfortune. The Church basically classifies misfortunes into two groups. Some misfortunes befall the sinner because of old, unrepented sins. Other misfortunes assault the righteous and serve, according to the words of St. John Chrysostom, “as a means of receiving a wreath, as was the case with Lazarus and Job.”…
When he was still a military commander, the future Emperor Marcian was traveling near Philipopolis and saw the corpse of a murdered man on the road. Out of pure compassion, he got off his horse and started to bury the corpse. Just then someone came by and saw him burying the corpse, and reported him to the court as a murderer. Marcian would have been punished by death, had God not shortly revealed the true murderer. This kind of misfortune falls into that second category-“for the receiving of a wreath.” Shortly after this, General Marcian was chosen to be emperor..
The Prologue from Ohrid: Lives of Saints by Saint Nikolai Velimirovič .
The Sessional hymn, in Tone V:
Grant rest, O our Savior, with the righteous * unto Thy servants, * and settle them in Thy courts, * as it is written, overlooking, as Thou art good, * their transgressions, voluntary and involuntary, * and all that they have committed either in knowledge or in ignorance, * O Lover of mankind.
Glory …., Now & ever ….,
O Christ God, Who didst shine forth unto the world * from the Virgin, * manifesting through her the sons of light, * have mercy on us.
The Troparion of the day in Tone VIII:
O Thou Who by the depth of Thy wisdom dost provide all things out of love for mankind, and grantest unto all that which is profitable, O only Creator: Grant rest, O Lord, to the souls of Thy servants; for in Thee have they placed their hope, O Creator and Fashioner and God.
Glory …, in Tone VIII:
For in Thee have they placed their hope, O our Creator and Fashioner and God.
Now & ever …, Theotokion in Tone VIII:
In thee we have a wall and a haven and an intercessor acceptable to God, Whom thou didst bear, O Theotokos unwedded, salvation of the faithful.
O Master Christ, set the souls of Your departed servants in the tabernacles of Your righteous, and have mercy upon us and save us, as You are the only Immortal One. Amen