(mnemosyna, memorial) or
(Old Church Slavonic)
Pannichida , or
Panikhída ; from the Greek for “all the dead”) are special prayer services offered for the benefit of the departed.
Table of contents
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
In the Orthodox Church the various prayers for the departed have as their purpose to pray for the repose of the departed, to comfort the living, and to remind those who remain behind of their own mortality, and the brevity of this earthly life. For this reason, memorial services have an air of penitence about them and tend to be served more frequently during the four fasting seasons (Great Lent, Nativity Fast, Apostles’ Fast and Dormition Fast).
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.
The memorial service is most frequently served after the Divine Liturgy, however it may also be served after Vespers, Matins, or as a separate service by itself. 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.
The service is composed of Psalms, Ektenias (litanies), hymns and prayers. In its outline it follows the general outline of Matins, and is in effect a truncated funeral service. Some of the most notable portions of the service are the Kontakion of the Departed, and the final, slow and solemn singing of “Memory Eternal.”
The deacon (or, if there is no deacon the priest) will swing the censer throughout almost the entire service, and all will stand holding lighted candles. Near the end of the service, during the final Troparia, all will either put out their candles or will place them in candle holders on the memorial table. Each candle symbolizes the individual soul, which, as it were, each person holds in their own hand. The extinguishing (or giving up) of the candle at the end of the service symbolizes the fact that each person will have to surrender their soul at the end of their life.
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.”
- Prayer for the Dead.
- Birnstan of Winchester
- Memorial service (Orthodox)
- ↑ The non-canonical Acts of Paul and Thecla (New Testament Apocrypha) speak of the efficacy of prayer for the dead, so that they might be “translated to a state of happiness.” (Acts of Paul and Thecla, 8:5)
- ↑ For instance, the Memorial Service does not have the chanting of “God is the Lord…” as the Molieben does; but instead, the “Alleluia” is chanted, reminiscent of the “Alleluia” that is chanted at Lenten services.
- ↑ They are also commonly held on the third year anniversary. Some faithful will request a memorial every year on the anniversary of death.
- ↑ The memorial table is a small, free-standing table to which has been attached an upright crucifix, sometimes including also icons of the Theotokos (the Virgin Mary) and the Apostle John. The table will also have a place for the faithful to put lighted candles.
- ↑ From this comes the Greek name parastas which refers to standing all night in vigil, which in the early days was what literally took place.
- ↑ Kontakion of the Departed: “With the saints give rest, O Christ, to the soul(s) of Thy servant(s), where there is neither sickness, nor sorrow, nor sighing, but life everlasting.”
- ↑ Deacon: In blessed repose, O Lord, grant eternal rest unto Thy departed servant (Name) and make his/her memory to be eternal!
Choir: Memory eternal! Memory eternal! Memory eternal!
- ↑ 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.
- Memorial service (Orthodox) at Wikipedia.
Prayers are often incorporated into funerals and memorial services. They can be used as a part of a speech, tribute, prayer, eulogy or reading. Prayers are also used in funeral and memorial printing , such as funeral programs, order of service programs, funeral and Memorial bookmarks and memorial prayer cards. Below are several funeral prayers that can be used in your Christian funeral services and funeral stationery.
The Resurrection Prayer
I am the resurrection and the Life,
Saith the Lord: He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.
I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
and though his body be destroyed, yet shall I see GOD: whom I shall see for myself,
and mine eyes shall behold, and not as a stranger.
We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
The LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
The Twenty-Third Psalm The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in the path of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, They comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the Lord – forever.
The Lord’s Prayer Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory. for ever and ever. Amen
Alternative Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours. Now and for ever. Amen
The Serenity Prayer God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with
Him forever in the next.
PEACE Lord, Make me a channel of thy peace- That where there is hatred, I may bring love; That where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness; That where there is discord, I may bring harmony; That where there is error, I may bring truth; That where there is doubt, I may bring faith; That where there is despair, I may bring hope; That where there are shadows, I may bring light;
That where there is sadness, I may bring joy. Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted; To understand, than be understood; To love, than be loved. For it is by self-forgetting that one finds. It is by forgiving that one is forgiven. It is by dying that one awakens to find – Eternal Life.
Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi Lord, make me an instrument of Your Peace; Where there is hatred, let me sow Love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may seek not so much to be consoled,
as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
A Season To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.
A Prayer For The Dead God our Father,
Your power brings us to birth,
Your providence guides our lives,
and by Your command we return to dust.
Lord, those who die still live in Your presence,
their lives change but do not end.
I pray in hope for my family,
relatives and friends,
and for all the dead known to You alone.
In company with Christ,
Who died and now lives,
may they rejoice in Your kingdom,
where all our tears are wiped away.
Unite us together again in one family,
to sing Your praise forever and ever.
Lord Of All We Praise You Lord of all, we praise you
for all who have entered into their rest
and reached the promised land where you are seen face to face.
Give us grace to follow in their footsteps
as they followed in the way of your Son.
Thank you for the memory of those you have called to yourself:
by each memory, turn our hearts from things seen to things unseen,
and lead us till we come to the eternal rest
you have prepared for your people,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Now I lay me down to sleep Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
The Beatitudes Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the
Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which hunger and thirst
after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall
Little Angels When god calls little children to dwell with Him above,
We mortals sometimes question the wisdom of His love.
For no heartache compares with the death of one small child,
who does so much to make our world seem wonderful and mild.
Perhaps God tires of calling the aged to His fold,
so He picks a rosebud, before it can grow old.
God knows how much we need them, and so he takes but few
to make the land of heaven more beautiful to view.
Believing this is difficult still somehow we must try,
the saddest word mankind knows will always be “Goodbye”
So when a little child departs, we who are
left behind must realize God loves children,
angels are hard to find.
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Yizkor (remembrance) is the memorial service recited for deceased parents and other relatives at several points throughout the year. The name of the prayer means “May He remember” (“He” being God and “Yizkor” being the first word of the prayer). Not only do many who recite the prayer find it to be a moving, emotional experience, it also has the power to elevate spiritually the souls of the departed.
Yizkor is predicated on the Jewish concept of the immortality of the soul. Although the deceased can no longer perform mitzvot, they can benefit from prayers, acts of charity, and other good deeds that their survivors perform on their behalf. Yizkor is an excellent time for personal reflection and to commit to particular actions or general self-improvement as a source of merit for the departed.
The Yizkor prayer is typically preceded by an appeal in the synagogue. This is not a mercenary attempt to extort funds from a captive audience; committing to give charity is an inherent part of the Yizkor experience. If one says the prayer by himself at home, he should nevertheless commit to donate to an appropriate charity in the deceased’s memory.
What are the Origins of Yizkor? When is It Recited and Why?
There are four holidays on which we recite Yizkor. It is said on Yom Kippur, the last day of Passover, the second day of Shavuot and on Shemini Atzeret (a separate holiday at the end of Sukkot). (In Israel, where there is one day less of Yom Tov, Yizkor is recited on the seventh day of Passover and the only day of Shavuot; Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are the same day in Israel.)
The original practice was to recite Yizkor only on Yom Kippur. This is because as “yom hakippurim” (“the day of atonements” – plural), the day effects atonement for both the living and the deceased. This is especially true through the act of giving charity, which is both an integral part of the atonement process and an important theme of the prayer Yizkor.
The roots of Yizkor are found in the Midrash Tanchuma (Ha’azinu 1), where it cites Deuteronomy 21:8, “Atone for Your people, Israel, whom You have redeemed.” We are told that the first part of the verse refers to the living of Israel, while the second part refers the deceased. The Midrash continues, “Therefore, our practice is to remember the deceased on Yom Kippur by pledging charity on their behalf.” We are then told not to think that charity no longer helps the departed. Rather, when one pledges charity on the deceased’s behalf, he ascends as quickly as an arrow shot from a bow.
Yizkor was extended from Yom Kippur alone to the Three Festivals, which is thematically appropriate. The Torah tells us (Deuteronomy 16:16-17) that when we make our pilgrimage to the Temple for the holidays, we are not to appear empty-handed. Each person was to make a donation according to his ability. We see from this that charity is also an integral part of the Festivals and therefore a fitting occasion for Yizkor with its emphasis on charity as a merit for the departed.
What Is in Yizkor?
Before starting Yizkor proper, many congregations recite a selection of Biblical verses pertaining to the nature of our lives and after-lives. (For example, “man’s days are like a shadow passing by” – Psalms 144:4; “God will redeem my soul from the depths” – Psalms 49:16, etc.) These verses are followed by the recitation of Psalm 91 (“Yosheiv Ba’seiser”), whose theme is that God is the refuge of mankind. After these readings, we’re ready to begin the actual prayer of Yizkor.
The theme of Yizkor is that we ask God to remember our relatives and to include them in the “bond of life” in paradise alongside the Patriarchs, Matriarchs and other departed righteous. In exchange for this, we commit (without making a vow) to donate charity on their behalf. The primary focus of Yizkor is on one’s parents, but it may also be recited on behalf of other relatives. The paragraphs in the siddur for father, mother and other close relatives have spaces where one can insert the names of the deceased. The Ashkenazic practice is to recite the name of the departed as the son or daughter of (their father’s name); other communities may use the name of the deceased’s mother.
Following Yizkor for one’s relatives, there are paragraphs for victims of the Holocaust and other martyrs.
After all of the Yizkor paragraphs, the prayer Keil Malei Rachamim (“God, full of compassion”) is recited. This prayer is the same one recited at a burial, an unveiling and during the Shabbos mincha service prior to the deceased’s Yahrtzeit. This is followed by the prayer Av Harachamim (“Father of compassion”), a memorial prayer recited on most Sabbaths. It may surprise some to hear that Kaddish is not part of the Yizkor service.
Should I Say Yizkor During the First Year? Should I Go Out if I’m Not Saying It?
A number of aspects of Yizkor are the subject of differences of opinion among the various authorities or matters of local custom. For example, some have the practice not to recite Yizkor during the first year following a death while the emotional wounds are still quite fresh. Others maintain that Yizkor should be recited during the first year the same as in all subsequent years.
One very familiar practice is for those not reciting Yizkor to leave the room while the mourners are saying it. Some will tell you that it is a sign of respect for one’s living parents not to remain inside while Yizkor is being recited for the deceased. Others will say that it is from fear of the ayin hara (“evil eye”) and that those with living parents go out so as not to tempt fate. Opponents of the practice say that going out is based on superstition and not recommended, or perhaps it’s just insensitive to those reciting it. Plus, there are prayers at the end that are recited for victims of the Holocaust and other martyrs; these apply to all members of the congregation, not just to those who have lost close family members. Some would advise staying inside in order to recite those prayers, or to go out and return for them.
In both of these matters, one should follow one’s own family custom or the practice of one’s community. If in doubt, ask your local rabbi.
Why is Shul So Crowded? Can Yizkor be Recited at Home?
It’s ironic that shuls become extra crowded because of a prayer that doesn’t need to be said with a minyan!
It is not uncommon that people who are not regular synagogue attendees will appear on days when Yizkor is recited. Of course there’s nothing wrong with this; it’s actually a wonderful thing that those who are not regular worshipers are willing to go the extra mile (sometimes literally) on behalf of relatives who are no longer with us. If anything, serving as the catalyst for their heirs to attend shul is a merit for the deceased. But if one cannot make it to shul, Yizkor can (and should) still be recited.
While it’s always preferable to pray in shul with a minyan, there are many legitimate reasons that prevent people from attending, such as infirmity or advanced age. If one cannot attend shul, there’s absolutely no reason not to say Yizkor in the privacy of one’s own home. And it is still appropriate to commit to donate to the synagogue or another worthy charity in merit of the departed.
Reprinted with permission from ou.org
Jewish mourning is both private and public. When we visit a grave or observe a yahrzeit , we generally do so in private. Yizkor is the public observance for the community of bereaved.
Yizkor means… from the root word zakhor–remember. It is the memorial service, recited four times a year in the synagogue–after the Torah reading on Yom Kippur day, Shemini Atzeret (the holiday adjacent to the end of Sukkot), the eighth day of Passover, and the second day of Shavuot .
Originally, Yizkor was recited only on Yom Kippur. Its primary purpose was to remember the deceased by committing tzedakah funds on the theory that the good deeds of the survivors elevate the souls of the departed. It also enhanced the chances for personal atonement by doing a deed of lovingkindness. Since the Torah reading on the last day of the pilgrimage festivals mentions the importance of donations, Yizkor was added to these holiday services.
It was… the custom for each community to read a list of its martyrs at the Yizkor service. The practice was eventually expanded to include the names of other members of the community who had died. Today, most synagogues publish lists of those who are remembered by congregants, which are distributed at the Yizkor services. In addition, the lights on all the memorial tablets in the synagogue are turned on.
The Four Parts of Yizkor
1. A series of readings and prayers, recited and chanted, that sets the mood for the solemn service.
2. Paragraphs that individuals read recalling the deceased. There are paragraphs for a father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter, other relatives and friends, and Jewish martyrs. During the service, each person reads the appropriate paragraph(s).
3. The memorial prayer for the deceased, the El Male Rahamim is chanted by the cantor. This is essentially the same prayer said at Jewish funerals.
4. A special prayer, Av HaRahamim (Ancestor of Mercies), probably composed as a eulogy for communities destroyed in the Crusades of 1096, is recited by the congregation as a memorial for all Jewish martyrs. Some also add Psalm 23.
Although in its traditional structure Yizkor does not include the recitation of the Mourner’s Kaddish many congregations do add this as the climax of the Yizkor service.
Non-Mourners During Yizkor
When I was a kid in Omaha, Yizkor always seemed to be the climax of Yom Kippur day. The shul was crowded with people all day long, but it was packed at Yizkor time. There was something about this mysterious, awe-inspiring service that drew people. It was the pull of remembrance.
It was also break time for those of us who were shooed out of the synagogue by our parents. A powerful superstition pervaded the community: If your parents were alive, you didn’t stay for Yizkor. God forbid, you should tempt the ayin ha-ra, the evil eye, by hearing and seeing others mourn for their departed. God forbid, you should sit down while virtually everyone else was standing for the Yizkor prayers, somehow making the mourners feel bad. So, during the 20 minutes or so of the Yizkor, the “fortunate” people whose parents were alive sat outside kibbitzing , while the vast majority of the congregation who had sustained a loss participated in the service.
These superstitions are just that — superstitions, bubbemeises (Yiddish for old wives’ tales). There is no legal requirement for those whose parents are alive to leave the service. In fact, many rabbis today suggest that everyone stay for Yizkor so that the entire congregation can offer the prayers for the martyrs of the Jewish people and offer moral support to friends and family who may be deeply touched by the memorial service. But, as with much of the folk religion, this custom is sure to continue in many communities. Ultimately, it is a matter of personal and family decision-making as to your practice.
Questions About Yizkor
Can I say Yizkor privately?
Since the Kaddish is not recited as part of Yizkor, there is no technical requirement for a minyan . Therefore, the memorial paragraphs can be said privately if you cannot get to the synagogue.
How do I get names listed in the Yizkor book?
Most congregations ask their members to list those who are to be remembered in the coming year as part of the yearly membership survey when you join or renew your affiliation. If someone dies during the year, the names are generally added as a matter of course, unless the synagogue publishes one book for use throughout the year. You may want to check this with the synagogue office to spare yourself the unease of the name missing when you expect it to be on the list.
What about donations?
In keeping with the origins of Yizkor, it is very appropriate to make a tzedakah contribution to honor those you are remembering. Many congregations appeal for funds at Yizkor services for the synagogue or for Israel. If you don’t belong to a synagogue, consider making a donation to a worthy cause.
Do I light a memorial candle when Yizkor is recited?
Yes. The 24-hour memorial candle should be lit in your home before the fast begins on Yom Kippur. On the other festivals, if your custom is to light a yahrzeit candle, use a flame from a pre-existing candle or other source to light the candle. These memorial candles are widely available in synagogue gift shops, kosher stores, and often in supermarkets. There is no blessing recited when you light the memorial candle, although it is certainly appropriate to reflect upon the memory of loved ones. The candle may be placed anywhere in the home.
Do I observe Yizkor during the first year of mourning?
Contrary to popular belief, yes. Clearly, Yizkor is observed for a spouse, a child, and a sibling and, according to most authorities, for parents during the first year.
Reprinted with permission from A Time to Mourn, A Time to Comfort (Jewish Lights).
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