In the spiritual experience of the Russian Church, veneration of the holy Great Martyr Demetrius of Thessalonica is closely linked with the memory of the defense of the nation and Church by the Great Prince of Moscow, Demetrius of the Don (May 19).
St Demetrius of the Don smashed the military might of the Golden Horde at the Battle of Kulikovo Field on September 8, 1380 (the Feast of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos), set between the Rivers Don and Nepryadva. The Battle of Kulikovo, for which the nation calls him Demetrius of the Don, became the first Russian national deed, rallying the spiritual power of the Russian nation around Moscow. The “Zadonschina,” an inspiring historic poem written by the priest Sophronius of Ryazem (1381), is devoted to this event.
Prince Demetrius of the Don was greatly devoted to the holy Great Martyr Demetrius. In 1380, on the eve of the Battle of Kulikovo, he solemnly transferred from Vladimir to Moscow the most holy object in the Dimitriev cathedral of Vladimir: the icon of the Great Martyr Demetrius of Thessalonica, painted on a piece of wood from the saint’s grave. A chapel in honor of the Great Martyr Demetrius was built at Moscow’s Dormition Cathedral.
The St Demetrius Memorial Saturday was established for the churchwide remembrance of the soldiers who fell in the Battle of Kulikovo. This memorial service was held for the first time at the Trinity-St Sergius monastery on October 20, 1380 by St Sergius of Radonezh, in the presence of Great Prince Demetrius of the Don. It is an annual remembrance of the heroes of the Battle of Kulikovo, among whom are the schemamonks Alexander (Peresvet) and Andrew (Oslyab). Later the Church began to commemorate on this day not only all those who had fallen on the battlefield, but all Orthodox Christians.
On Demetrius’ parental Saturday, the graves of deceased relatives are traditionally visited, memorial services and funeral lithias are served in churches and cemeteries, and funeral meals are arranged.
On this day, as on other parental days (on Meatfare and Trinity Saturdays, on Saturdays of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th weeks of Great Lent), Orthodox Christians pray for the repose of the souls of deceased Christians, mainly parents. But Demetrius’ Saturday also carries a special meaning: it was established after the Battle of Kulikovo and reminds us of all those who died and suffered for the Orthodox faith.
If it is not possible on these days to visit a church or a cemetery, you can pray for the repose of the deceased in home prayer. In general, the Church commands us not only on special days of remembrance but every day to pray for departed parents, relatives, known and benefactors. To do this, the following short prayer is included in the daily morning prayers:
Prayer for the departed
Have peace, Lord, the souls of the departed are Thy servant: my parents, relatives, benefactors (their names) and all Orthodox Christians, and forgive them all sins, voluntary and involuntary, and grant them the Kingdom of Heaven.
It is more convenient to read the names from the memorial – a small booklet where the names of living and deceased relatives are recorded. There is a pious custom of keeping family commemorations, reading which both in home prayer and during church services, Orthodox people commemorate many generations of their deceased ancestors by name.
Church commemoration on parental Saturday
To commemorate your deceased relatives in church, you need to come to church for divine service on Friday evening on the eve of parental Saturday. At this time, the great funeral service, or parastas, is performed. All troparia, stichera, chants, and readings of parastas are dedicated to prayer for the dead. On the morning of the memorial Saturday itself, the funeral Divine Liturgy is performed, after which a general requiem is served.
For church commemoration for parastas, separately for the liturgy, parishioners prepare notes commemorating the dead. In the note, in large, legible handwriting, the names of those commemorated in the genitive case are written (to answer the question “who?” Nina). All names must be given in church spelling (for example, Tatiana, Aleksiy) and in full (Michael, Lyubov, not Misha, Lyuba).
In addition, it is customary to bring food as a donation to the temple. As a rule, bread, sweets, fruits, vegetables, etc. are placed on the canon. You can bring flour for prosphora, Cahors for the liturgy, candles, and oil for lamps. It is not allowed to bring meat products or strong alcoholic drinks.
It must be remembered
Prayer for the dead is our main and invaluable help to those who have departed to another world. The deceased does not need, by and large, neither a coffin nor a grave monument, let alone a memorial table – all this is just a tribute to traditions, albeit very pious. But the eternally living soul of the deceased feels a great need for constant prayer, for it cannot itself do good deeds with which it would be able to propitiate the Lord.