In about two weeks, western Christians will commemorate all the dead on November 2, the Feast of All Souls. This commemoration is important to Filipinos, and I am often asked the question: Can we still keep All Saints and All Souls Day?
The short answer: All Souls Day is not on our calendar.
However it is always appropriate for Christian people to pray for our departed loved ones! Many families, not only in the Philippines but in many places, have the custom of observing All Souls Day or the anniversary of a loved one’s death by visiting the cemetery or even having a picnic meal there at the grave. This is a healthy and pious custom, reminding us that “God is the God of the living, not of the dead, for all live to Him” (Luke 20:38). None of those who have fallen asleep in Christ are separated from Him, and death does not divide the Church.
Additionally, we have an Orthodox service called the Trisagion for the Departed or General Panihida which your priest offers at least seven times every year, on the Saturdays of Souls. Every Saturday is a traditional day to pray for the dead, because Christ rested in the tomb on Saturday. But these Saturdays are especially chosen for commemoration of the dead:
- The Saturday of Meatfare Week (the second Saturday before Great Lent)
- The second Saturday during Great Lent
- The third Saturday during Great Lent
- The fourth Saturday during 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 — Oct. 26/Nov. 8). This year it is on Saturday, October 28.
In the Orthodox Church we have not just one All Souls Day but seven of them, in addition to your family’s pious commemoration at the grave of your loved ones.
Your parish priest will offer these prayers in the church every year. But if your mission does not have a priest, or if you want to commemorate any Orthodox who has departed, then there is a Reader Service for the Departed which any layman may use. Download it in English or Cebuano.
Finally, besides the liturgical services of the Church which commemorate all those who have died in the Orthodox Faith, the Church has provided us a prayer we can all pray at home, alone or together, for all our loved ones who have fallen asleep in Christ: the Akathist for the Departed. I encourage all Christian people, but especially those who are now grieving for the loss of a loved one: Print this prayer, and add it to your own morning or evening prayers. It will help you to pour out your heart to the Lord. As you ask mercy for your loved one, the Lord will bless both them and you.