PsychoSabbaton, Soul Saturday


Today is one of the two Saturday of the Souls i.e. a commemoration of those who have fallen asleep.

        On this Saturday,  and the last one of the Great Pascha, for tomorrow is Ascension, Eastern Orthodox Christians have memorial services for their reposed family either by paying  respect to them  either by going to the grave and praying or going to Church and giving  a list of their names to the priest.

        Some priests will only allow a few names now.  If  you give too many as my godmother tells me, they knock them back, saying that other members of the family should be praying for them.  Growing up in Brooklyn, we had a massive congregation at Kimisis Theotokou and this pruning the family tree was unheard of and my Mum gave the whole lot, and my grandmother would do the same at her Church, Holy Cross in Bay Ridge, or what we always called, The New Church. Now that the congregations are smaller,  priests have grown to like the easy life and interrogate.

        Still it bothers me because on my father’s side, no one goes to Church at all from what I can tell other than for Christenings, Weddings and Funerals and sometimes not even that. When my nephew died last Thanksgiving it was a great surprise to us that he had converted and so the service was in Roman church in Virginia and his grandfather, nonchalant about it all, was sick, literally, when he found out: they had been married in a Greek Orthodox Church in Connecticut.

        So, my  list is small so there won’t be repercussions: my grandparents, my Uncle Nako (nickname for Ioannis or John), and my parents.  I add my Thitsa (Greek for beloved aunt) in on the sly, for she is on my mother’s family and I am not sure who prays for her.   I imagine the priest thinks it’s Nako’s wife.  Well she was married to John (Ioannis) but I doubt anyone called him Nako, I never heard it.  The only person I ever heard called Nako was my Yiayia’s brother and it took and Internet Search via to find out that it was a nickname.  We had all thought it was his name and never could we find a saint for him which made absolutely no sense as his father was priest.  So now we know, Nako – Ioannaki(Johnny).  So on the list, Nako covers both men.

        When I talk to my mother’s family as we often do to see who is adding in who, there is no one who even remembers Thitsa, much less puts her on the list.  I often get, “Oh yes, Thea Georgia” like an after thought, and that would pain her greatly as she lived for her family.  It seems after twenty years all of that is forgotten.  I imagine that they think that they will have a better fate.

        As for PsychoSabbaton, the Sabbaton is for “Saturday” — from the Hebrew word Sabbath — and means rest.  Technically there are only two PsychoSabbatons,  the one on Saturday before Meat-fare Sunday and the other on Saturday before Pentecost, tomorrow. 

         The official line is “As the  Church is a continuous intercommunion between those of its members that are still struggling on earth and those that have already slept in the Lord, PsychoSabbaton is a way of memorializing those that are resting in the Lord as there is nothing more certain than death and nothing more uncertain than its arrival”….which reminds me of John Donne,’s  a minister of the Church of England, “Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, and severall steps in my Sickness,”. 

         The devotions were  written by Donne while he was the Dean of St. Paul’s Church in London for King James I’s  (the one who authorized the Bible known as the KJV)  son Prince Charles as a series of meditations.  In the catholic tradition, all of humanity is the Body of Christ and all are equal before God (Romans 12:4).    It has since  been fashioned into a poem and named, For Whom the Bell Tolls which Ernest Hemingway gave the title to his WWI tragedy.  It is apropos today and a one of the many poems, one should commit to memory to call up when needed…

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

John Donne


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