Priest (in a low voice): “…Again, we offer You this spiritual worship (τὴν λογικὴν ταύτην λατρείαν, словесную сию службу) for those who have reposed in the faith: forefathers, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and for every righteous spirit made perfect in faith”; (aloud) “Especially (Ἐξαιρέτως, Изрядно) for our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary.” (Eucharistic Prayer, Byzantine Divine Liturgy)
We don’t only pray “to” the saints; we also pray “for” them, in the Eucharist. How am I to understand this puzzling fact? What is “accomplished,” if I can put it that way, by such prayer?
First of all, we “offer” for the saints, by “remembering” them, as an expression of our gratitude for them. Because being grateful for someone or something means remembering them or it, while forgetting someone or something indicates ingratitude. We also “connect” with the heavenly Church in our Eucharistic offering, through our Great Connector, Jesus Christ, Who brings all of creation together, both visible and invisible, in His one Body. Finally, through the Eucharistic commemorations we traditionally indicate whose “side” we’re on, proclaiming aloud the names of the most distinguished members of our “team” (like the Theotokos, as far as the heavenly Church goes, and – a bit later in the Liturgy, – our bishop(s), as far as the earthly one goes).
Today I thank You, Lord, for all of us, both visible and invisible. And “especially,” as those among us on the “New” Calendar near the end of the Dormition Fast, “for our most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary!”