All Souls Saturdays – An Eastern Church Tradition
“With the souls of the just brought to perfection, give rest O Savior, to the souls of your servants;
keeping them for the blessed life with you, for you love us all.”
Eastern churches (both Byzantine Catholic and Orthodox) set aside five Saturdays per year, called All Souls Saturdays, to commemorate and pray for departed souls – our deceased loved ones. The reservation of these five days as part of the liturgical calendar of Eastern Churches differs from the liturgical traditions of the Roman Catholic church, which remembers the deceased on All Souls Day and All Saints Day in November.
In Eastern churches, it is customary to pray for the dead throughout the year during Divine Liturgies. But on All Souls Saturdays, the Divine Liturgy has an additional emphasis in remembering the deceased faithful. The Gospel readings on these All Souls Saturdays and Sundays following correspond with our need for mindfulness regarding mercy, repentance, forgiveness of sin and last judgment.
Immediately following each All Souls Saturday Liturgy, a short closing service called a “Panachida” is held. During the service, the names of deceased faithful are presented before God as they are recited aloud by the priest. The Panachida is a short, beautiful prayer service using a specific liturgical chant reserved for memorializing departed souls.
As Catholics, we are united with the Risen Christ.
We are members of the Body of Christ, the Church,
and we share in our relationship as a family of believers, all members of the church, both living and deceased.
In death, our deceased loved ones are still members of our church family, the community of saints,
and we continue to pray for them as well as asking for their prayers for us.
The First All Souls is held before Lent begins. On the Sunday immediately after this first All Souls, we hear in the gospel reading about the Final Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46). In this Jesus describes the judgment on whether we serve and show mercy to others or not, and therefore in turn serve God. In our First All Souls remembrance, we have an opportunity to pray for the deceased asking God to be merciful to them also.
The Second, Third, and Fourth All Souls Saturdays are all during Lent, known in Eastern Churches as the Great Fast. We are reminded of our own mortality and our need for repentance. We also are encouraged during Lent to perform charitable acts. Since praying for the dead is one of the spiritual acts of mercy, we set aside additional time during Lent for this.
The Fifth All Souls Saturday is the Saturday before Pentecost. At Pentecost we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit. We pray for the deceased in seeking the same graces of the Holy Spirit for them, that all are saved as Jesus promises.
All Souls Saturdays in 2017:
Special Note for 2017: There are only 4 All Souls Saturdays in 2017 because the Feast Day of the Annunciation occurs on one of the Saturdays normally set for All Souls.
- February 18 – All Souls Saturday
February 27 (Monday) First Day of the Great Fast
- March 11 – All Souls Saturday
- March 18 – All Souls Saturday
March 25 – Annunciation of the Theotokos (Saturday)
April 1 – Akathistos Saturday
April 8 – Lazarus Saturday
April 9 – Palm Sunday
April 8 – 16 Great and Holy Week
April 15 – Holy Saturday
April 16 Resurrection Sunday – Pascha
- June 3 – All Souls Saturday
June 4 (Sunday) Pentecost
“Blessed are they whom You have chosen and received, O Lord; they are remembered from generation to generation.”
Verse from Liturgy for Faithful Departed.