Remembering the Departed
This writer was blessed to have the opportunity to visit holy places in Greece and Serbia in March and September of this year. One of the striking memories from these trips was the respect shown to the remains of believers who have departed this life.
In Thessalonica the Serbian Cemetery having the graves of eight thousand casualities from World War I is extremely well-cared for. Two chapels exist at the cemetery. Symbols of remembrance in the chapels make it clear that the people buried in the cemetery remain dear in the hearts and minds of the living.
While we were at the St. George Chapel at the Serbian Cemetery in Thessalonica, His Grace Bishop Dr.MITROPHAN served a pomen (memorial service) for believers buried in the cemetery.
In Thessalonica the opportunity also arose to venerate the relics of St. Demetrius the Great Martyr in the Church of St. Demetrius. Similar opportunities occurred in other parts of Greece to venerate the relics of saints interred in churches and cathedrals.
A most memorable occasion on the trip to Greece was the visit to Hilandar Monastery on Holy Mt. Athos. We viewed the cemetery at the monastery. We visited the room where heads of the monks are kept who have departed this life. Following the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy, we venerated the relics of saints held in trust at this centuries-old holiest of places.
The reverence, respect and honor shown to departed faithful in Greece and Serbia is cause for careful consideration here in America. During the trip to Serbia we observed the huge St. Sava Cathedral in Belgrade which has arisen on the site where St. Sava's body was burned.
We went to Monastery Krusedol in Frusca Gora, to Monastery Sopacani, Monastery Studenitza, to the Saborna Crkva in Belgrade, and other churches and monasteries where relics of saints are sacred.
The people in our tour group witnessed people in Greece and in Serbia coming to pay respects, to reverence and to venerate the relics of saints held in trust in churches and monasteries.
We saw burial sites in and near churches and monasteries of believers who gave their lives in service to the Church. His Holiness Patriarch German is interred in St. Mark's Cathedral in Belgrade.
In Topola we visited the magnificent Church of St. George which has a crypt underneath intended for members of the Karadjordjevic dynasty. Not far from where our bus was parked as we made the trek to Oplenac was located a beautiful cemetery adorned with marble. The mosaics in the St. George Church and the marble monuments in the cemetery reflected the deep thoughtfulness of the living for the departed.
Each time the Divine Liturgy is served in the Holy Orthodox Church, prayers for the departed are included. In the litanies in Vespers, Matins and the Divine Liturgy, mention is made of the Orthodox believers departed this life.
In this time in America let us pause to think carefully about our burial practices. +Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich has a prayer describing the graves of just men containing more power than the unjust living do.