The final shots of the recently released series “Chernobyl” are accompanied by threefold singing “Memory Eternal”. The last episode is called the same way.
This prayer is the final part of two church services dedicated to the departed – the funeral service, which is also called the burial rite (performed on a baptized person who has just died), and memorial service (served to commemorate Orthodox Christians, whose bodies have been already buried).
The choir solemnly sings the threefold “Memory Eternal” in response to the priest’s exclamation (or the deacon’s one, if he participates in the service): “Give rest eternal, O Lord, in blessed repose, to the soul(s) of Thy departed servant(s), Name, and make their (his, her) memory eternal”.
In the ancient Church, the “Memory Eternal” was sung at the burial of prominent people — archbishops, patriarchs, and later emperors. Subsequently, this chant was included in the rite of an ordinary memorial service, and, as a rule, was accompanied by three bell strikes.
By proclaiming the “memory eternal” of the departed, the Church does not mean remembrance of the departed is the only remained thing for us to do while we are alive. In conclusion of the prayer, we hear words the “blessed repose”, that is, sleep. This is how Christians understand death – as some temporary oblivion, a dream which all the departed will awake from on the Day of the Second Coming of Lord Jesus Christ. Until then, the living should pray for the departed, because they “sleep” in some sense and cannot change themselves for the better. “Memory Eternal” is an invitation for us to ask for mercy from God for those whom we are temporarily separated with and not just to remember them.
St. Nicholas the Serbian explains the meaning of this chants as follows: «“Memory Eternal” is an eternal memory of a person. Once I heard someone exclaimed in a farewell speech over the dead: ” Memory eternal to you on this earth!” Such misinterpretation of our faith surprised me. Could there be anything eternal on earth, where everything is temporary, where we are all just guests? So, it is a poor good for a deceased person, if we want eternal memory for him only in this world nearing to its end. But, even if the memory of someone will live on earth until the end of time, does it really matter if they are forgotten by heaven? It is right to think that we wish the departed eternal memory in eternity, in eternal life and in the kingdom of God. This is the meaning of the words “memory eternal”».
Originally posted by Foma Magazine
Translated by The Catalog of Good Deeds