“Christ Is Risen! Be Brave!”: the Meatfare Memorial Saturday

The Meatfare Memorial Saturday is one of the major memorial days in the Orthodox calendar.

Generally, every Saturday is a special day for Christians. God finished the creation of the world by Saturday and it became the day of rest. That is why this last day of the week was named Shabbat. It was on the same day that Christ, who had fallen asleep in the flesh, finished the restoration of this broken-down Old Testament world, descended into the hell and heralded the start of a new life. Remember the troparion of the Easter Hours? In the grave bodily, but in hades with Thy soul as God; in Paradise with the thief, and on the throne with the Father and the Spirit wast Thou Who fillest all things, O Christ the Inexpressible.

That is why we remember our dead every Saturday. They did not leave us for good; instead, they are waiting patiently for the last day of the general Resurrection. There are annual memorial Saturdays, which stand out from all other Saturdays. They are called memorial because every Christian prays first of all for people that he or she remembers personally, such as their parents.

Why was this Saturday chosen as one of such days? The Church prays for the deceased on the eve of the Sunday of Last Judgment so that they could stand to the right hand of the Righteous Judge with us. According to the Synaxarion (a collection of edifying readings from the Triodion), the Church specifically prays for those who were rooted out by a sudden death in a foreign land, in the sea and in impassable mountains, cliffs, and clefts; those who died of epidemics and famine, in war, fire, or frost; as well as for the poor and destitute and all those who did not receive the proper Christian burial. Moreover, the Church uses the today’s prayer for the deceased to remind us of our inevitable death and the imminent trial, that is, the Doomsday.

Worship texts provide us with a detailed account of the “theology of death and resurrection.” The 4th sticheron on Lauds is especially eloquent. It begins with the Easter greeting Christ is Risen! How symbolic it is to hear that joyful greeting for the first time, long before Easter, on the day when we commemorate our deceased! It sounds like the justification of the very fact that we pray for the deceased. In addition, the Holy Church hurries to share this happy message with the dead earlier than with the living (for such is Her love!): Christ is Risen… Be brave, O ye dead ones! <…> In view of the coming remembrance of the Judgment Day, the Church wants to mitigate the horror of that day and encourage the deceased and the living. Christ is Risen! Be brave!

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