Can the 40 Days Liturgy prayers touch the souls of the departed?

By November 12, 2022Spiritual Counsels

St Daniel the Athonite (1929), the wise hesychast, has recorded in his manuscripts the following incident:

A virtuous Christian, Demetrios, nearing the end of his life asked a priest to celebrate forty divine liturgies for his soul. The priest immediately began celebrating the 40 liturgies. In the meantime, Demetrios fell asleep in the Lord. The last liturgy was to be on a Sunday. On Saturday night, however, the priest had a strong toothache, and he postponed the last liturgy to Monday.

On Saturday afternoon, George, the son of the late Demetrios, prepared some money for the priest’s trouble, with the intention of giving it to him the next day.

At midnight George woke up to pray. After his prayer he brought to mind his father’s virtues, gifts, and wise words. At some point the following thought crossed his mind: ‘Do the forty-liturgies benefit the souls of the deceased, or did the church establish them for the consolation of the living?’

Just then he took a light sleep and found himself in an area of indescribable beauty. He felt unworthy to be in such a sacred and heavenly place. In front of him stretched a vast and verdant orchard, which had an inexpressible fragrance.

‘This must definitely be paradise!’, he said. ‘Oh, what bliss awaits those who live virtuously on earth!’

Amazed at the beauty he saw a glorious palace with exquisite architectural grace, while its walls shone with diamonds and gold. He was lost for words.

As he approached it – what a joy! – He saw at the door of the palace his father radiant and brightly dressed.

‘How did you get here, my child?’ he asked him meekly and affectionately. ‘I don’t know, father. I understand that I am not worthy of this place. But tell me, how do you get by here? How did you come here and whose is this palace?

The charity of our Savior Jesus Christ with the intercessions of the Virgin Mary, whom I had special reverence for, granted me this place. It was scheduled for me to enter the palace today, but the builder had some troubles with his tooth and had to have it pulled out tonight – and so he could not complete the forty liturgies. That is why I will enter tomorrow.’

After that, George woke up in tears and surprised, but also with questions.

He spent the rest of the night reciting praises to God. In the morning, after the divine liturgy, he took some wine and pure beeswax candles and set off for the chapel of the Holy Apostles, where the priest was celebrating the 40 liturgies. The priest welcomed him with joy, but not to sadden George, he told him that he had just finished the 40th liturgy.

George then told him what he had experienced that night. When he reached the point where his father did not enter the palace, because the builder pulled out his tooth, the priest felt horror, but also admiration. ‘I, my dear, am the builder who worked on the palace building’, he said with joy.

‘Today I did not serve the liturgy because I pulled out my tooth, but I will celebrate it on Monday, and so I will complete your father’s spiritual palace.’

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