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Memorial Services (Greek: Μνημόσυνα (memorial) or Παραστάς (wake), Church Slavonic: паннихида, panikhída ) are special prayer services offered for the benefit of the departed.

Prayers and Almsgiving

Early Christians expressed their concern for the repose of the souls of their beloved by works of charity and love and by personal and communal prayers. The Apostolic Constitutions recommended that part of the possessions of a dead person be distributed to the poor in his "memory". St. John Chrysostom, Jerome, Tertullian, and others also recommended alms giving in memory of the dead although they believe that this and other good works for the repose of the soul of the dead also benefit the doers.

Memorial Services with Kollyva Offerings

According to the Apostolic Constitutions, memorial services may be held on the 3rd, 9th, and 40th day, and on the completion of a year from the day of death. These prescribed times are still observed in most Orthodox places. For the memorial service, Kollyva, a ritual food of boiled wheat, is often prepared and is placed in front of the memorial table or an icon of Christ and is blessed by the priest afterwards.

Considering the fact that in the Orthodox Churches of the diaspora a memorial service with the participation of the congregation must be held on a Sunday, the 40th day memorial service is the one universally observed although by necessity, it may not be held exactly on the 40th day. Needless to say, the Orthodox people may give the names of their departed to be mentioned by the priest in the Eucharist at any time.

At Gravesites and Commemorative meals

Another kind of memorial was the gathering on the graves of the dead or in the church (funerals), and the serving of meals afterwards known as "makariai" (meals in memory of) that are still held by many in the church hall following burial.

In addition, it is also customary for the priest to pour wine, oil, and some of the Kollyva on the grave site, following memorial services in church.

At the Eucharist

Praying for the dead could include celebrating the Eucharist or could be a special service, as it is now, in which the names of the dead were mentioned, or it could be both. St. Cyril of Jerusalem mentions the prayers offered for the benefit of all who have died in the faith of Christ, stating that their souls greatly benefit by the prayers of the Church and by offering the Bloodless Sacrifice for the repose of their souls. St. John Chrysostom believes that "to mention the names of the departed in the awesome mystery of the Eucharist results in much benefit for the souls of the beloved." Above all, praying for the dead is a deeply rooted practice in the Church on the belief that the Church of Christ is constituted not only of her living members but also of her departed ones. The Bloodless Sacrifice of the Orthodox Eucharist, as articulated in all the Liturgies in use, is offered for the benefit of both dead and living faithful. A Biblical basis for praying for the dead may be found in the Epistle of St. James, 5:16, by which the "prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects."[1]

See also

Services of the Orthodox Church
Divine Liturgy
Daily Cycle
Vespers | Compline | Midnight Office | Matins
First, Third, Sixth, and Ninth Hour Services
Other Services
Akathist Hymn | Paraklesis
Great Blessing of Water | Artoklasia
Baptism-Chrismation Service
Ordination Service | Marriage Service
Funeral Service | Memorial Service



  1. Rev. Dr. Nicon D. Patrinacos (M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon)). A Dictionary of Greek Orthodoxy - Λεξικόν Ελληνικής Ορθοδοξίας. Light & Life Publishing, Minnesota, 1984. pp.249-250.


  • Rev. Dr. Nicon D. Patrinacos (M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon)). A Dictionary of Greek Orthodoxy - Λεξικον Ελληνικης Ορθοδοξιας. Light & Life Publishing, Minnesota, 1984.