Question: Why we the still living, must pray for the departed?
1992 (6) PRAY FOR THE REPOSED
by the New Hieromartyr John of Riga
death of people who are close and dear to us is one of the most
difficult trials sent to us by the Lord God during this temporary life.
There are no tears more bitter than the tears of a mother for the
beloved child of her heart who goes to the grave before his time. What
sorrow can we compare to the sorrow of widows and orphans? Nonetheless,
our Lord and Saviour turns to these people, the most unfortunate ones in
the eyes of the world, saying respectfully, "Do not weep!" The Apostle
Paul commands these sorrowing ones, saying, "Do not sorrow!"
does all this mean? Of course, it does not mean that we should forget
those dear loved ones of ours who have departed, that we should cast
them out of our hearts. No. We should love them after their death just
as we loved them in life. However, we should not sorrow over their
death. Death does not separate us who are Christians from communion in
love with those who are dear to us. The Lord Himself has given us the
very grace-filled means needed to have communion with them. The first
among these means is prayer. Prayer is the best means for spiritual
communion among people who are still alive. The Apostle Paul beseeched
the believers to pray continually for him in order that the Lord would
grant him strength and power to preach. Likewise, St. Paul prayed for
others that the Lord would confirm them in the Faith and in a Christian
life. There is no doubt that the prayers of believers strengthened the
Apostle and that his prayers strengthened them.
find an amazing example of the power and action of mutual prayer in the
Acts of the Apostles. While St. Peter was in prison sleeping between
two guards, prayer was made without ceasing of the Church unto God for him (Acts
12:5). What was the result of this prayer? During that very night, the
Angel of the Lord appeared in the prison, awoke the sleeping Apostle,
and led him out of prison.
power and action of prayer for the souls of the departed is even
greater than prayer for the living. There is no greater comfort than
prayer and no greater joy than joy in the Lord for those who are
separated from their bodies. It is unjust, as some think, to assume that
the needs of our departed brethren are unknown to us. However, this is
not true. The spiritual needs of the dead are the same as the spiritual
needs of the living. The dead need the mercy and goodness of the
Heavenly Father, forgiveness and remission of sins, grace-filled help
from God in the fulfillment of all good desires, and the peace and ease
of the heart and conscience. These things are most important both for
the living and the dead. Give rest, O Lord, to the souls of Thy departed servants is
the continual prayer and best intention of our Mother Church for the
souls of Her departed. We should also beseech the Lord with this
intention for the departed souls of our own loved ones.
could be that some soul bound himself with earthly attachments, with
earthly cares, and could not be free of them after death. Earthly
thoughts about home and cares, about acquiring things, might still tug
at this soul, torture him, and not allow him the freedom to strive with
heart and soul towards God. We should pray that the Lord will grant rest
to such a soul in the quiet harbor of His Kingdom. We should pray that
the Lord will destroy and burn up in the fire of His Grace the memory of
his earthly cares. We should pray that the Lord will warm this soul
with love and with the desire for eternal treasure, that the Lord will
give rest to this soul in the sweetest hope of eternal blessedness...
having confessed at the hour of death, some soul did so quickly, in a
confused manner. This soul might have forgotten something because of
troubled feelings, and he now grieves over this. Perhaps, this soul did
not have time to offer God true repentance, to fully cleanse his sins by
tears of compunction. Perhaps, the awareness of unconfessed and
unforgiven sins tear and torture this soul. Pray for this soul who is
suffering. Pray that the Lord God might comfort him with the protection
of His inextinguishable mercy Pray that this soul might receive, albeit
at this late hour, remission of sins because of his sincere remorse.
can enumerate all those bonds with which our soul might bind itself in
this lifetime and by which it might remain bound for eternity. One might
have been envious of his neighbor in the depths of ones soul and bound
himself thus. Another person might have mocked the weakness of His
neighbor and become according to the words of the Lord, worthy of Hell.
Another person might have lied and as a result became the son of the
father of lies. If Thou shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, O Lord, who shall stand? Therefore,
no matter how holy a man's life might be, no one can be sure that he
will pass into the next world completely reconciled with God. No man can
say that the prayerful intercessions of those brethren who are left
alive are unnecessary for him.
not the repentance of St. Ephraim the Syrian sincere and deep? Even he,
sensing that his end was near, besought his brethren, "O Brothers,
accompany me into the world above with prayers, psalms, and offerings.
Remember me on the fortieth day after my death; because prayers and
offerings made by the living help the departed."
of charity are another means of communion with the departed. "If you
desire to honor the dead, offer a gift for him. Honor him by good works,
charitable offerings, and services" (St. John Chrysostom). Send gifts
for the reposed through the hands of the poor and the hopeless. In the
name of the reposed, do acts of charity to the best of your ability and
be assured that your gift will be received by God. Our Lord Jesus Christ
has assures us that our gifts will be received, saying, In as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me (Matt.
25:40). Can it be that He Who is all-powerful will remain in debt to
us? If you give food and drink to the hungry and the thirsty in His
name, then the Lord will fill the soul of your departed brother with the
appearance of His light-bearing and joy-filling Image.
could be that the soul of your relative is ashamed before the holy
angels because of his lack of good deeds and because of his wretched
sins, and he hides in darkness and in murky depths from the face of God.
Clothe the naked; wash the feet of the tired; receive and give rest to
the traveler in the name of such a soul; and the merciful Lord will vest
this soul in the Garment of His Mercy, will adorn it in the Robe of His
justification, will wash its sinful filth in His Most Precious Blood...
could be that the soul of your friend bound by sins languishes in a
dungeon without the vision of God's face. Hurry to a prison and assuage
the heart of a suffering prisoner in the name of your departed friend.
The Lord will send His bright angels to comfort the soul of your
sorrowing friend, to strengthen him with hope, and make him rejoice in
the promise of God's mercy.
could be that a soul has left this world for the spiritual world
without having drawn close to the holy inhabitants of that world through
prayer; he may have appeared in that higher sphere as one entering a
strange and unfamiliar land and may not find any spiritual 'relative' in
this upper Sion. Take in the stranger; give rest to the beggar; give
him a place to rest his head, and the Lord will grant the soul, for whom
you do this, one of the bright dwellings in His Father's mansion. The
souls of the righteous will receive this soul in bright and joyful
communion. St. John Chrysostom says, "If we desire to relieve the
sufferings of a sinner, let us do acts of mercy in his name. Though he
be unworthy, the Lord will comfort and pity him."
we pray for the reposed and do charitable works in their name, it is
necessary, Brethren, to reflect on our own death while there is still
time. We should prepare now so that we will not pass into the future
life of torture bound by bonds of sin. No matter how short or how long
the Lord has determined that we will live on earth, there is no doubt
that our entire present life is a road leading to death and to the
threshold of eternity There is nothing better or of more value for us to
acquire than a peaceful, blameless, repentant, and Christian end to our
life. He who has lived piously will repose piously. He who has lived
with the Lord will die with the Lord. He who zealously serves the Lord
before death will be with the Lord after his repose. Where I am,
there shall also My servant be. For if we believe that Jesus died and
rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with
From Orthodox Life, Vol. 42, No. 6 (Nov.-Dec., 1992), pp. 29-32. Translated from, Orthodox Russia, no. 13, 1990.