40th Day after death

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The 40th Day after death is a traditional memorial service, family gathering, ceremonies and rituals in memory of the departed on the 40th day after his/her death. The 40th Day concludes the 40-day memorial period and has a major significance in traditions of Eastern Orthodox. It is believed that the soul of the departed remains wandering on Earth during the 40-day period, coming back home, visiting places the departed has lived in as well as their fresh grave. The soul also completes the journey through the Aerial toll house finally leaving this world. The rituals during the period aim to let the soul go in order to keep it from returning and bothering the living.

In Russian tradition, bread and a glass of water is put in the Icon Corner in the house of the departed. The bread and water are intended for the departed and other deceased ancestors who will visit to remember him. The glass is refilled with fresh water daily while water from previous day is poured out. It is common to make up the bed for the departed during the 40-day period, donating the bedding to poor on the 40th Day. A towel for the departed is hung next to the window and brought to the church on the 40th Day. The house doors are adorned with spruce branches for the departed to easily find his house and for the passersby to give their respects. On the 40th Day the branches are brought to the cemetery or burned. All remaining ritual items in memory of the departed are removed from the house, his cloth is donated to the poor or burned. All ceremonial restrictions are also lifted on the 40th Day, it is no longer prohibited to lay on the departed bed, to leave the house empty and locked, to turn off the light in the departed room, to touch the departed cloth, etc. It is also no longer prohibited to decorate the departed grave.

The family gathers on the 40th Day inviting those who wish to remember the departed visiting the grave and the church and having a memorial meal at the house. The church serves the 40th Day panihida with prayers comforting the living and reminding the living of the brevity of life. The meal at the house includes traditional dishes of remembrance: kutia, kissels, honey drinks. In some traditions all night vigils with intense prayers are held on the night before the 40th Day. The motif of the 40th Day is "we said good bye to you, no longer come to us, we will come to you." After the 40th Day the living can no longer grieve about the departed, they must move on with their lives. All funeral wreaths are removed from the grave and burned.

The New Testament echoes the 40th Day tradition, with the Ascension of Jesus occurring on the 40th Day after his resurrection when Jesus' humanity is taken into Heaven.

See also[edit]

  • ja:四十九日 (gathering of family and relatives of, and praying for a person in Japan, 49 days after the person dies)

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