Often we forget the significance of the Divine Liturgy but the accounts below remind us of how the Fathers celebrated the Divine Liturgy not only on Sundays and feast days but also on behalf of others in times of need whether they were dead or alive.
In a certain place, there was a prisoner heavily bound in chains. His wife had the habit on specific days of having the Divine Liturgy celebrated on his behalf. After many years when the prisoner returned to his homeland he mentioned to his wife that on designated days his chains were invisibly and curiously loosened. Astonished, his spouse confirmed that the days on which her husband was given some relief and comfort corresponded to those days on which she had had Liturgy celebrated on his behalf.
In another instance, a sailor, recounted this miracle that happened to him: Together with Bishop Agathon of Panormos (present day – Palermo, Italy) he was sailing to Rome. During the trip the sailor was in a small boat that was tied by a rope to the ship. At a certain point, because of the rough seas the rope broke and the boat was carried off by the waves and disappeared. The ship which was carrying the Bishop was cast ashore by the sea on the Island of Ustica. Ustica is a small island on the Tyrrhenian Sea, near Palermo. There he waited for three days, on the outside chance that the boat and the sailor would appear, but to no avail. The Bishop came to the conclusion that the sailor had drowned and thus arranged to celebrate the Divine Liturgy for the repose of his soul.
After doing this, the Bishop left for Italy; there however, in the port of Rome he encountered the sailor alive! He thus felt immense gratitude that the sailor had been saved, asking him, with friendly and affectionate curiosity how he had avoided the fearful danger of shipwreck.Thereupon the sailor related his adventure to him in detail:
‘For a long time I struggled in the waters with the boat’, he said, ‘which was continually filling with water and which capsized many times until finally the keel was on top. Maintaining this struggle, as the boat was being swept away by the waves, I became completely exhausted. My strength more and more waned with hunger. At some point, I became faint and fell into a state between sleep and wakefulness; that is, I was neither awake nor asleep. As I was in this state,’ the sailor continued, ‘there appeared before me, on the open sea, someone who was holding some bread and who offered it to me. I thereupon, having eaten and being filled, somehow recovered my strength. In a little while there arrived at that precise point a ship that put me in tow and subsequently took me safely to shore.’
The Bishop listened in amazement to this narration and asked to be told on what day the unknown person in question appeared to him on the open sea and gave him bread. And the sailor clearly verified that this happened on the very day on which the Bishop had celebrated the Liturgy at Ustica.