All Souls Day: Prayer for the Departed

Death for the faithful Christian is not annihilation but final passage to our lasting home with God in heaven. Our Lord Jesus Christ, by His Passion, Death and Resurrection, has won for us the victory which gives us the sure hope of life, body and soul, with God without end in Heaven. Praying for the dead is an integral part of our Christian life; it is one of the spiritual works of mercy. Our prayer for the dead both honors their memory and expresses our faithful love as we assist them to be purified of any temporal punishment due to sin and to reach their final destiny and lasting home with God.

“For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8).

Cross Carpathian-bluePrayer for the departed is considered by Orthodox Catholic Christians as an essential component of our faith in Jesus Christ. Christians have been praying for their departed brothers and sisters since the earliest days of Christianity. Early liturgies and inscriptions of prayers for the dead found on the walls of the Roman catacombs where the early Christians were buried attest to the ancientness of the Christian tradition of offering prayers for the dead.

Praying for the dead is actually borrowed from Judaism, as indicated in 2 Maccabees 12:41-42. In the New Testament, St Paul prays for mercy for his departed friend Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:18). Early Christian writers Tertullian and St. Cyprian testify to the regular practice of praying for the souls of the departed. Tertullian justified the practice based on custom and Tradition, and not on explicit scriptural teaching. This demonstrates that Christians believed that their prayers could somehow have a positive effect on the souls of departed believers. The New Testament hints at a purification of believers after death. For example, Saint Paul speaks of being saved, “but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:15).

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In the liturgical books of the Western Rite, All Souls’ Day (November 2nd) is a day of prayer for the dead called “The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed.” Prayer for a loved one in Orthodox Catholic theology is believed to be a way of erasing any distance between us, even in death. In prayer we stand in God’s presence in the company of all the the angels and saints, including our beloved departed gone before us. This feast is an expression of the doctrine of the communion of saints.

Please know our love for you and our desire to be united with you in praying for your beloved departed during the month of November. On All Souls Day, a Divine Liturgy and memorial prayer service (Slavonic: панvхида, panikhída) will be celebrated in the chapel of panikhida 4the Orthodox Catholic Monastery of Our Lady Joy of All Who Sorrow. Thereafter, every day in November, a memorial prayer service will be offered in the monastery chapel with special commemoration of the names of the faithful departed.  In this service we ask God to “grant rest” to the deceased “in the bosom of Abraham” (Luke 16:22-23) and to place him/her “in a place of light, a place of happiness, a place of refreshment, where there is no pain, no sorrow and no suffering” (Revelation 21:4).

We invite you to send us the names of your beloved deceased to have them commemorated in daily prayerful remembrance in the monastery chapel throughout the month of November. You may send in the names of your loved ones by downloading, completing and returning by mail the Commemoration Book (Hramatka-Помянникъ) or by sending the names by email to: ocmoljaws@gmail.com

May our prayers for the dead assist them on the final stage of their pilgrimage home to God. May we prepare ourselves each day for our own death, praying that it may be peaceful and may bring us safely home to heaven!

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