Memory Eternal

The beginning to the life of Blessed Andrei of Simbursk contains these words: “Time does not spare human remembrance.”[1] For most of us, few will remark our passing. After those who love us die, no one will remember who we were, how we lived our lives, or even our names. Human remembrance is fleeting.

The psalmist writes: “For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side: while they took counsel together against me, they devised to take away my life. But I trusted in thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my God. My times are in thy hand.” (Ps 31:13-15a) The knowledge that our times are in the hand of God informs our understanding of life after death. The psalmist did not say time, as in a unit of time that comes to an end; he said times, which has an eschatological dimension.

Near the end of the funeral liturgy, the priest prays:

“May Christ our true God, Who rose from the dead, through the intercessions of His most pure Mother, of our holy and God-bearing fathers, and of all the saints, commit the soul of His servant [name], that hath departed from us, to the tabernacles of the righteous, give him (her) rest in the bosom of Abraham, and number him (her) with the righteous, and have mercy on us and save us, for He is good and the Lover of mankind.”

The deacon then prays:

“In a blessed falling asleep, grant, O Lord, eternal rest unto Thy departed servant [name], and make his (her) memory to be eternal.”

The response of the Church is to sing three times: “Memory Eternal.” This is the blessed hope of every believer, to be remembered by God and to live with Him and the saints in His kingdom, which had no end. This is why we Orthodox exclaim “Memory Eternal” when informed of someone’s death. We know this life is fleeting, and human remembrance is fleeting, but that our times are in His hands.

We should note that while our lives are hid with Christ our God, we acknowledge the horror that is death. Humans were not made for a disincarnate existence. Therefore we mourn their death and our loss, even as we await the glorious resurrection of the body. This is why we Orthodox honor our dead, going so far as to give them a last kiss, for we know that their mortal bodies will be resurrected, they will put on incorruption, and that in their flesh they will see God.


Bibliography

Archpriest Elexei Skala. (2018). Blessed Andrei of Simbirsk, Fool-for-Christ and Wonderworker. The Orthodox Word, 54(4), 157-185.

[1] (Archpriest Elexei Skala, 2018, p. 158)

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