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. We pray for the dead during Liturgy when the words are spoken in petition immediately after the Consecration of the Eucharist: “Remember, O Lord, all those who have departed in the hope of resurrection …” All Saturdays are likewise dedicated to prayer for the deceased. 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 having a greater understanding of 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 for 2019
February 23 1st All Souls Saturday
March 4 First Day of Lent in the Byzantine Catholic Church
March 16 2nd All Souls Saturday
March 23 3rd All Souls Saturday
March 30 4th All Souls Saturday
April 6 Akathistos Saturday
April 13 Lazarus Saturday
April 14 Palm Sunday
April 15 Beginning of Great and Holy Week
“Blessed are they whom You have chosen and received, O Lord; they are remembered from generation to generation.”
Verse from Liturgy for Faithful Departed.