What is a Panakhyda?

As millions watched the funeral for Pope John Paul II, many were confused by the concluding Panakhyda celebrated not in Latin, but in Greek and Arabic by hierarchs in black hoods, turbans, crowns, and unusual vestments.

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Catholics are generally unaware that they have millions of co-religionists who are not themselves part of the Roman Catholic Church.

A Panakhyda is a solemn liturgical service for the repose of departed in the Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite.  The various prayers for the departed have as their purpose praying for the repose of the departed, comforting the living, and reminding the living of their own mortality and the brevity of this earthly life. For this reason, memorial services have an air of penitence about them, and tend to be served more frequently during the four fasting seasons. The memorial service is most frequently served at the end of the Divine Liturgy; however, it may also be served after Vespers, Matins, or as a separate service by itself.

Anniversaries of Death or Burial

Another statement of love for those who have gone into eternity is to offer prayers on their behalf on the anniversaries of their death or burial. A Divine Liturgy, Parastas or Panakhyda are usually celebrated.

God, grant eternal memory

The thief on the cross said to Jesus: “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.” And to these words, our Lord replied: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Lk 23:42-43). With the words of the thief in mind, the faithful sing this short prayer in behalf of the deceased: “Let his(her) memory be eternal. With the Saints, O Christ, grant rest and eternal memory.”

People forget. Our memory is capable of remembering certain events, but for the most part, we forget. Even what we remember, we cannot bring the event from the past and make it real. But God is beyond time and He never forgets. He is the Lord of the living and the dead. When God remembers, He remembers forever, and His remembrance is reality. To be remembered by God in His Kingdom is to live forever, for God’s memory is eternal, incomprehensible, and without limit.