Thursday, May 30, 2013

Stump the Priest: Commemorations



If you have a question you would like to submit, you can e-mail me (my address is on our parish website).

"How exactly do the commemoration lists work? I know I write the names of Orthodox or non-orthodox people I’m praying for, and then eat the Prosphora bread afterwords… But how do I get the commemorations read out during liturgy? I’m praying for a deceased friend of a friend… Also, for commemorations of the living, are those typically just the sick? Or do we do list those we’re praying for “in general”? For instance, my parents, God Parents, friends that I’m trying to introduce to the church, etc…"


Commemorations can be submitted during the liturgy by either writing out the names of those who are to be commemorated, on the sheets of paper that are placed near the prosphora, or by getting a commemoration book and putting their names in it. If you are using the sheets of paper, there are sheets with read ink that are for the living, and sheets with black ink that are for the dead. In commemoration books, the living are listed in the front section, and the section for the dead follows that.

You simply place your commemoration list with a prosphora into the appropriate basket. Only Orthodox Christians can be commemorated by name during the services. You can include the names of the non-Orthodox in your commemoration book, but they should be labeled as such, and it is best to have them listed in a separate section. For more on how one could set up a commemoration book, see "How to Set Up a Personal Commemoration Book."


It is very important that we not just submit names to be prayed for by the priest, but that when we submit those names, we first pray for them ourselves. As Archbishop Vitaly (Maximenko) of blessed memory used to say, we should not be like cuckoo birds that lay eggs in the nests of other birds, and leave the job of hatching those eggs to others. If we ask others to pray for someone, we should also be praying for them. By submitting a prosphora with a list of commemorations, you are participating in the proskomedia, and you are praying with the priest for those people that you have listed.


In our parish,  these commemorations should be submitted before the end of the first litany at the beginning of the liturgy.

If you have a commemoration book, you can also pray for those you have listed during the week as part of your morning and/or evening prayers. In the Jordanville Prayer Book there is a section at the end of the morning prayers in which these commemorations could be done.

It is a pious practice to take the prosphora from your commemorations, cut it up and let it dry out, and to eat a little bit each morning, after your morning prayers, and to take a sip of holy water. Prosphora should be eaten before you eat anything else that day. For those who cannot attend a daily liturgy, this is a way of participating in the liturgy to a lesser extent throughout the week (see also: Sanctified Bread, by Fr. Victor Potapov).

There are generally three places in the Liturgy in which Orthodox Christians can be commemorated aloud:

1. The Augmented Litany, at which time we can pray for people who are celebrating a special occasion, such as a names day; we can pray for those who are ill; and we can pray for those who are traveling.

2. Commemorations  are also done at the Great Entrance. In our parish, aside from the fixed commemorations, we usually only pray for the departed, but some parish also do other commemorations at this point.

3. At weekday Liturgies, apart from Great Feasts, a litany can be done for the departed. There are several Soul Saturdays during the year in which we especially pray for the departed.

If there is someone that you would like to have commemorated aloud during the Liturgy, it is best to let the priest know before the Liturgy begins. In a pinch, you could have a note sent into the altar, but again, only the Orthodox can be commemorated aloud by name during the services.


You can also ask the priest to serve a pannikhida for any Orthodox reposed you may wish to pray for. This is especially done on or near the anniversary of their repose. For the recently departed, a pannikhida is usually done on the first, third, ninth, and fortieth day of their repose. For the non-Orthodox, I would recommend that you use the Akathist for the Repose of the Departed, which is in the Book of Akathists from Jordanville. For the living, you can request a moleben to pray for any pious purpose, which would certainly include prayers for the salvation of a relative. You can also do a reader's moleben for those purposes as well.