Concerning Christian prayer for the dead, by the church and in the Proskomedia

The thin wall between the living and the dead

Our bright joyous Faith teaches us that the time will come when we shall see our dear departed ones and shall live with them inseparably forever. God is boundless Love.

He will not separate those who were united in the bonds of love. We will rejoice with those whom we loved and with whom we shared our joys here. Our near and dear ones will be still nearer and dearer. Our mutual love will be greater. Knowing all this, with what fervor we must commemorate our dead. Our timely commemoration may very well free them from everlasting suffering.

How grateful they shall be to us. Our prayer for the reposed shall be as strong as our love for them was in their lifetime.

They shall be correspondingly nearer to us. True prayer of faith may bring the dead so near to us that we shall be able to feel their presence. During prayer one heart speaks to another.

Father John of Kronstadt once said, "we must pray for the dead in such a way as if we would be ourselves in hell, suffering. We must feel their torments and pray earnestly for their rest in the place of light where are neither sadness not tears."

Our holy doctrine says, 'Pray one for another." The prayer of the Church is so powerful that in rising to heaven it ascends to the very throne of Almighty God. The same prayer also descends to hell and liberates those who are imprisoned there.

The prayer of the Church is addressed to the Heavenly Father in the name of His well-beloved and only-begotten Son, commemorating His immeasurably great sacrifice which He made on the cross for the sins of the world.

This is done before the all-pure Body of the Son, broken for us to procure the forgiveness of our sins, which rests on the Altar. This prayer is accompanied and strengthened by the prayer of all saints, particularly by the all-powerful intercession of the Mother of God, tireless Advocate for Christian people. Every time that the propitiating Sacrifice of the Body and of the Blood of the Son of God is offered, the entire host of the heavenly militia, the congregation of angels and saints is present.

Each time that our deceased brethren are commemorated during Liturgy, their souls are allowed to attend, together with angels and saints, to pray for their salvation. With what trembling hope, perhaps, the soul of your dear one awaits your entrance into the temple of God when you are going to request the priest to commemorate this very soul during the great and terrible sacred rite, and to pray yourself with the entire Church for that soul.

With what joy and consolation the soul of the departed one is replenished when, called to the temple of God by commemoration, it appears before the throne of the Lord together with the choir of angels to implore the Lord and the Church for forgiveness of sins and the good answer before the terrible Tribunal of Christ.

What indescribable joy, happiness and beatitude fills the soul when the particle, taken for its commemoration at the Prothesis (Proskomedia), together with the rest of the particles, is immersed in the Most Holy Blood of the Son of God in the Holy Cup with this prayer, "Wash away, O Lord, the sins of those commemorated here with Thy Blood!". We should, therefore, keep true love for our dear departed.

When we shall die, they too shall remember us at our death's hour with the same love with which we commemorate them here. This will help us. While we bade them farewell here with tears and prayers they shall meet us with joy and good tidings. The dead know everything about us and what we do here. They see and hear us perfectly when we pray for them.

Even if we wanted to hide ourselves in the bowels of the earth and pray for the dead, from the latter they would see, hear and know who precisely prays for them. They would also know to whom we pray, for whom and for what purpose. How much more the Lord Himself knows all that. Good deeds and prayers of the living made in commemoration of the dead save them both.

With what tender, holy parental love the dead parents love their children remaining on earth - their orphans! With what angelic love the dead children love their parents who remain on earth! With what strong love the married people who passed away love their remaining partners! With what pure and tender love our brothers, sisters, friends and all true Christians love those who remain here, their relatives and friends united with them in Holy Faith!

What multitude of souls awaits us over there. "There," Bishop Theophan the Recluse says, "the soul of a man is met by all for whom it prayed, to whom it prayed, during its days on earth." What a consolation! How merciful is the Lord to our soul. At once He sends to meet us, when we enter the unknown land, all those for whom we prayed and to whom we prayed. This strong faith, this premonition of life to come, serene and radiant death, complete acceptance of their lot in life - all these graces the saints receive because of their faith in Christ.

Therefore, if you want to help your departed ones wholeheartedly and to do everything commanded by the Holy Church, never allow any doubt to enter about his or her ultimate salvation. Learn that this doubt is a suggestion of the evil spirit.

And why? Because if the dead were unworthy of salvation, God would not allow you to pray for them, according to St. John Damascene. The latter says, "For those dead who are unworthy of salvation, God moves none to pray for them: neither parents, nor wife, nor husband, nor relatives, nor friends." The following prophecy is accomplished in them, "Miserable are those among the dead for whom none of the living prays."

Until the Last Judgement of Christ there is time to help each other and the state of our dead. The Bloodless Sacrifice offered for the dead washes their sins and they receive an opportunity to come to a better state. After the Bloodless Sacrifice, the most powerful means to obtain the forgiveness of sins of the dead is works of charity. St. John Chrysostom says, "honor dead with alms and good deeds because it will help them to escape everlasting torments." Amen! November 10/23. 1947."

When I finished reading the paper I looked in wonder at the Starets [Elder]. His astonishing eyes, bright and clear, looked at me. I realized at once that Fr. Michael read my thoughts and knew my past.

"Father", I asked him, "what do you think of death?"

"There is no death," he answered, "there is merely a passing from one state to another. To me personally, the life of another world is much more real than my life here."

"I know one Archimandrite, " I said, " who thinks likewise."

" Blessed is he," the Starets answered. "He is on the right road and perhaps nearing that other life. The more the Christian lives the interior life, the more he is detached from this world, and imperceptibly he approaches the other world. When the end comes it is easy: the thin curtain simply dissolves."

"Can you feel a living contact with the dead, Father?"

"Certainly. The prayers for the dead maintain this contact. Those who omit that prayer break off contact, with deplorable results. Prayers for the dead are needful not only to them, but to us as well."

"Interior Silence", Hieroschemamonk Michael of Valaam, 1877 - 1962
Elder Michael ( Hieroschemamonk Michael, 1877 - 1962) was accepted as novice in 1902 (Valaam), tonsured in 1914 , ordained to the Priesthood in 1917, tonsured in the Great Schema in 1945, and reposed in Pskov Caves Monastery in 1962. He did not accept the New Pachalia which was imposed upon the Monastery,


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