Saturday of Souls

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Kollyva offerings of boiled wheat blessed liturgically on Soul Saturday (Psychosabbaton).

Saturday of Souls (or Soul Saturday) is a day set aside for commemoration of the dead within the liturgical year of the Eastern Orthodox and Greek-Catholic Churches. Saturday is a traditional day for prayer for the dead, because Christ lay dead in the Tomb on Saturday.

There are several Soul Saturdays throughout the year:

  • The Saturday of Meatfare Week (the second Saturday before Great Lent)—the day before the Sunday of the Last Judgement
  • The second Saturday of Great Lent
  • The third Saturday of Great Lent
  • The fourth Saturday of Great Lent
  • Radonitsa (Monday or Tuesday after Thomas Sunday)
  • The Saturday before Pentecost
  • Demetrius Saturday (the Saturday before the feast of Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki—26 October). In the Bulgarian Orthodox Church there is a commemoration of the dead on the Saturday before the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel—8 November, instead of the Demetrius Soul Saturday.

These days are devoted to prayer for departed relatives and others among the faithful who might not be commemorated specifically as Saints. The Divine Services on these days have special hymns added to them to commemorate the departed. There is normally a Panikhida (memorial service) served either after the Divine Liturgy on Saturday morning, or after Vespers on Friday evening, for which Koliva (a dish made of boiled wheatberries and honey) is prepared and placed in front of the cross or icon before which the Panikhida is served. After the service, the priest blesses the koliva and it is then eaten as a memorial by all present.

All Orthodox and Byzantine Catholics observe Soul Saturdays on Meatfare Saturday (i.e., two Saturdays before the beginning of Great Lent); the second, third, and fourth Saturdays of Great Lent; and the Saturday before Pentecost.

Other Orthodox, such as the Serbian Orthodox, observe commemorations of the dead on the Saturdays before August 8 and before October 24. The Russians observe memorials on the Saturdays closest to October 26 (Saint Demetrius), and September 23 (Conception of St. John the Forerunner).

Another memorial day, Radonitsa, does not fall on a Saturday, but on either Monday or Tuesday of the second week after Pascha (Easter). Radonitsa does not have special hymns for the dead at the Divine Services, but instead, a Panikhida will follow the Divine Liturgy, and then all will bring paschal foods to the cemeteries to greet the departed with the joy of the Resurrection.

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