Why did the Church Establish the Saturdays of the Souls?28 February 2022
The Saturday before Meat-fare Sunday is called the ‘Saturday of the Souls’. It’s the first of two, the other being the Saturday before the Sunday of Pentecost.
Even though every Saturday is dedicated to the departed, the Church established the Saturdays of the Souls for the following reason: because there were occasions when people died alone, at unknown times and places, at sea, on mountains, precipices and many other places, or were poor or suffered some other problem, and so weren’t mentioned in the prescribed memorial services. For this reason, ‘the holy Fathers, moved by loving-kindness, adopted this memorial service on behalf of all those devout Christians who have gone to their rest over the centuries’.
In particular, given that Meat-fare Sunday is dedicated to the remembrance of Christ’s Second Coming and, given that the departed have not yet been judged, we remember them today and, calling upon the infinite mercy of God through the memorial service we conduct, entreat him to grant them eternal life. At the same time, we, too, recall the certainty of death and ‘are moved to repentance’.
The Church teaches that death is a universal event and we stand in awe when we hear of it. We are all moved when we attend the graves of our departed, who are buried in the cemeteries of our villages and towns. We’re well aware that the Church comprises one body consisting of two parts, the militant and the triumphant.
The Church militant is all of us who are alive, while the triumphant is all our departed brothers and sisters, from Adam and Eve until today.
And so today, the Saturday of the Souls, the Church remembers all those who have departed this world, in whatever manner, and we keep them in our unworthy prayers. The Lord calls each person to him in a different way and he alone knows the deeper reasons, which are for their salvation, be they young or old, man or woman, ailing or well, unexpectedly and abruptly or by a natural death. All of this makes us feel the need to pray for the departed, especially for those who’ve been forgotten even by their relatives and don’t have memorial services conducted for them.
And through our prayers for the departed, we the living also prepare ourselves for that dread day when death will come to us. This Saturday is a unique opportunity for us to understand how fleeting our presence on earth is: those who were born, died; those who are alive, will die; and those who are yet to be born, will also die. Today, the Church reminds all those who are present at the memorial service that they should remember death.
It’s the obligation of every Christian to prepare for the imminent journey into eternity, through forgiveness, confession and participation in the spotless Body and precious Blood of Christ, so that, in accordance with the prayer of the Church, the end of our life may be ‘Christian, painless, unashamed and peaceful’ and that we may have ‘a good defense at the dread judgment-seat of Christ’. Amen.