May 2, 2011

Thomas Monday or Tuesday and the Departed

By Sergei V. Bulgakov

On Thomas Monday, in some places on Tuesday, the commemoration of the departed is done. Actually in the service of these days according to the Ustav [Typikon] the special prayers for the departed are not prescribed and the commemoration on these days is done according to the pious custom of the Russian Church. The basis for this commemoration of the departed, on the other hand, serves to commemorate the descent of Jesus Christ into Hades, tied not only to Thomas Sunday but also for another reason, is the decision of the church Ustav [Typikon] to do the usual commemoration of the departed, beginning with Thomas Monday. Under this decision the faithful come to the graves of their relatives with the joyful news about the resurrection of Christ. From here also the very day of commemoration is called Radonitsa [Day of Rejoicing]1.

The commemoration of the departed after Pascha was also done in extreme antiquity. St. Ambrose of Milan says in one of his sermons: "It is truly meet and right, brethren, that after the celebration of Pascha, which we have celebrated, to share our joy with the holy martyrs and by them as participants in the suffering of the Lord, to announce the glory of the resurrection of the Lord." Although these words of St. Ambrose relate to martyrs, they may be an indication of our custom to commemorate the departed after Pascha on Monday or Tuesday of Thomas Week because the beginning of the solemn commemorations in the faith of those who died is established in the New Testament Church as a pious custom to the memory of the martyrs, but among the martyrs buried in antiquity and the others who have died (see details in the Astrakhanskiia Eparkhialniia Vedomosti [Astrakhan Diocesan News] 1891, 10).

Up to present time in some places there exists a shocking custom of wild drunken revelry after the Paschal remembrance of the departed. In 1895 in Kiev the local Diocesan Authorities issued an order to prohibit bringing vodka and other intoxicated drinks into the cemeteries during the time of the paschal memorials, and assigned the responsibility to the cemetery rectors for the sober Christian behavior of visitors of the cemeteries, but the police were offered vodka to pass by the cemetery and thereby not remove the drinking parties from the graves. All Kiev parish clergy announced this order beforehand in the temples and admonished their parishioners to abandon this sinful custom to celebrate only after the pagan drunken funeral feast on the graves of their deceased. This new order was published in the local newspapers. Besides this the rectors of the Kiev cemeteries also posted special posters about the city, notified the townspeople on the enacted order and accepted the measures against drunkenness in the cemeteries (see the Tserkovnyi Vestnik [Church Messenger], 1895, 16). May God grant that also in other places they do not hesitate to take corresponding measures against allowing wild orgies so offensive for all Christian feelings in the cemeteries during the memorials of the deceased.

1. In some places they give the Old Slavonic name "Navii [corpse]" to this day (Dushepoleznoe Chtenie [Edifying Reading], 1871, 11, page 273).


See also: Tuesday of St. Thomas: Radonitsa (Day of Rejoicing)