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Ortho_cat
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« on: August 17, 2009, 01:40:59 AM »

Ok, lets talk about prayers for the dead.  I realize that few define what exactly the effects are of these prayers on the souls after death. A have a few questions about why we say them, and the general nature of what we "hope" their effects will be.

First, let's discuss those who die in Christ.  I've heard that we pray for the forgiveness of their sins once they have already died. Do we really believe that Christ will forgive someones sins based on who prays for them?  Also, is this based on the scripture from 2 Maccabbees?

Ok, now lets talk about those who die outside of Christ (unbelievers).  What types of prayers do we pray for these souls, and what benefits do we "hope" that our prayers will have on them?  By our prayers could someone's eternal destination be reversed, even if they shunned Christ their whole life? Perhaps one could say that no one really knows who is or isn't within the Body of Christ. However, I think it is fair to say that there are certain individuals in history who blatantly professed their opposition to Christ.  Is there any hope for these souls after death by our prayers?

Thanks!

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« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2009, 10:33:27 AM »

There is a passage in the book of Baruch that may apply here and I have always been curious as to why it is hardly referred to and yet the passage from 2 Maccabees is so much more often. "O Lord Almighty, thou God of Israel, hear now the prayers of the dead Israelites, and of their children, which have sinned before thee, and not hearkened unto the voice of thee our God: for the which cause these plagues cleave unto us." (Baruch 3:4, KJV). Christ says the God of Abraham of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of the living not the dead (Matthew 22:32) and the Lord's prayer is intercessory as well as individual, & that in 1 Timothy 2:1 St. Paul mentions that intercessions should be for all, and finally would not prayers for the "living" departed as well as living in the flesh fulfill the 2 great commands (Matthew 22:37-40 & note that this shortly follows Matthew 22:32). I think this is just something we do as an act of faith. Of course an inquiring question as to this is worthy and good and perhaps others can offer better or even more correct responses. My 2 cents.
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« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2009, 11:34:53 AM »

The Orthodox Church, from biblical times, has offered prayers for the dead. They are offered on the basis of the fact that the Church is one, but found both on earth and in heaven. Since as members of the Church we are obligated  to pray for each other, there is no reason why we may not pray for the dead. However, it is another issue as to the actual consequences of our prayers for the dead. For you see, the Church also teaches that all which we do for salvation must be done in this life. According to Church teaching there is no movement from damnation to salvation in the life to come, nor is there a continuation of spiritual development.

Then what effect can our prayers have for the dead? We have only the response that somehow they help by providing comfort and assistance. We do not know precisely the nature of that assistance, but we trust the mercy of God, that He will hear our prayer for our beloved dead. But this is not so unusual. Even as we pray for things in this life, we never know in advance just what kind of answers our prayers will receive. Our prayers do not produce predictably automatic results. It is the same with our prayers for the dead. Needless to say, our prayers for the dead also have an impact on us: they remind us of those who have gone on; we have the sense of fulfilling a responsibility toward them individually, we come into communion with the Church Triumphant; and, not insignificantly, we are reminded of our own eventual death and our responsibility to prepare for it and to be ready for it.

~~taken from The Orthodox Church: 455 Questions and Answers by Fr. Stanley S. Harakas
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« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2009, 01:51:23 PM »


I was always taught that even though people may have passed away, they are still a part of the Church.  Their souls are still very much "alive".

However, at this point in their existence they are no longer able to "help themselves".  In other words, if they have died unrepentant in some sin, etc. they can no long make "amends".  They cannot give alms, or help the needy, or ask forgiveness.  Therefore, as we are all truly "one" within the Church, it falls to us (the living - the Church Militant) to take up their cause.  We give alms in their memory, we do good works, etc.

This is certainly not to be viewed as "buying" their way out of sin.  No.  It only goes to show what a positive influence that person had on us.  That soul left behind a good impression, so much so, that others have taken up their cause.  They have taught us to do good.  They have taught us to help others.  We do these things, remembering them, for they were good and kind and taught us to these things.

Additionally, since the Final Judgment has not taken place, they have not been "assigned" a permanent place of repose.   Therefore, with our prayers, we ask, we beg, that God have mercy on them, that He forgive them their sins, etc.  They cannot pray for themselves anymore.  It's up to us.

You asked if God would forgive someone their sins based on our prayers, alone.  No.  God will do, what God will do.  However, God is a loving Father, and if He hears the prayers of His children on behalf of a certain soul, then maybe the judgment won't be as harsh or severe.  In other words, maybe the person has some sins, however, they have left behind a good memory, left a good legacy, they have taught well those they left behind, therefore, these "goods" will also be weighed.

I once heard a story (cannot give you the source) of a priest who was down in the catacombs praying at the tomb of a saint.  He prayed all night.  Then he was startled to see the Saint before him.  At that point the saint asked the priest to pray for his departed mother (the saint's mother).  He asked that the priest perform a "panachida" in memory of his mother.  This only reinforced the importance of the prayers of the living on behalf of the departed.


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« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2009, 02:18:50 PM »

Douglas,

Although your point of view makes sense to me, I've heard quite the contrary.  I've read/heard that theosis is something that continues even after this life, and necessarily includes further spiritual development.  In addition, I've also heard that prayers could have an effect of the eternal destination of the departed soul (in fact, our priest mentioned something similar to this in catechesis last week)

Liza,

You mention that the departed are no longer able to offer prayers of repentance once they have departed.  Why is this?  If we can ask departed souls to pray for us, why can't they pray to God for themselves? If there is no difference between living or dead (we are all part of the body) then why can they not continue to communicate with God and ask for forgiveness (especially since they are "closer" to the Him, so to speak!)

As for us asking for anothers forgiveness of sins after they have departed, I'm not convinced that the old testament basis (Baruch etc) for this is still valid, since many of the other  practices/laws of the old testament have been "phased out" after the new coveneant with Jesus. Why is this different?
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« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2009, 02:23:57 PM »

Douglas,

Although your point of view makes sense to me, I've heard quite the contrary.  I've read/heard that theosis is something that continues even after this life, and necessarily includes further spiritual development.  In addition, I've also heard that prayers could have an effect of the eternal destination of the departed soul (in fact, our priest mentioned something similar to this in catechesis last week)



Let's be clear about this. It isn't my point of view that I posted. It is the point of view of the Greek Orthodox Church of America as expressed by Fr Stanley Harakas. So who is Fr Stanley? Father Stanley Samuel Harakas is a priest of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. He is a distinguished teacher of Orthodox theology, and a significant resource in Orthodox ethics. He served as dean of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and Hellenic College where he also taught. He also was visiting professor at a number of other schools.

More found here: http://en.orthodoxwiki.org/Stanley_S._Harakas
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« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2009, 02:35:59 PM »

I also share Ortho_cat's regards about the reposed people's ability to pray. If they cannot pray for the others why do we pray to the Saints?
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« Reply #7 on: August 17, 2009, 03:00:05 PM »

I also share Ortho_cat's regards about the reposed people's ability to pray. If they cannot pray for the others why do we pray to the Saints?

Read the post carefully. Fr Stanley did NOT say you cannot pray for the departed. He also provided reasons WHY prayers for the departed are advisable.
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« Reply #8 on: August 17, 2009, 03:03:20 PM »

I also share Ortho_cat's regards about the reposed people's ability to pray. If they cannot pray for the others why do we pray to the Saints?

Read the post carefully. Fr Stanley did NOT say you cannot pray for the departed. He also provided reasons WHY prayers for the departed are advisable.

I haven't posted about praying for the departed byt TO the departed and canonised people (aka Saints) to pray for us in front of God.
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« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2009, 03:09:41 PM »


Not all those departed are "saints".
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« Reply #10 on: August 17, 2009, 03:14:10 PM »

But, according to what was stated, even Saints can't pray for us. So why to pray to them?

I was told that departed people cannot pray only for themselves but still do can pray for others (see parable about a rich man and Lazarus). 
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« Reply #11 on: August 17, 2009, 04:30:00 PM »

Mike, the point that I was questioning is why saints or the faithful departed can't pray for themselves. 

Saints and others in heaven can and do pray for us to God.  Logically, by extension I would think that they should be able to pray for themselves also, but Liza said that is not the case based on what she was taught.

edit: I found another post about praying for the dead. Views in this post seem to tend towards our prayers actually having an effect on the salvation of the souls, whether they are believers or unbelievers.

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,5829.0.html

I'm so confused!  Huh
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« Reply #12 on: August 17, 2009, 05:49:05 PM »

I'm sorry Douglas and Ortho_cat for having misunderstood your posts and discussed them.
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« Reply #13 on: September 15, 2009, 09:51:27 PM »

bump.

Reading through and I am still confused
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« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2009, 12:16:32 AM »

Mike, the point that I was questioning is why saints or the faithful departed can't pray for themselves. 

Saints and others in heaven can and do pray for us to God.  Logically, by extension I would think that they should be able to pray for themselves also...

This is logical. But we still pray for others here on earth even though they are capable of praying for themselves.

We are to pray for one another, and we must recognize that the Church militant and the Church victorious nevertheless comprise One Holy Church.

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« Reply #15 on: September 16, 2009, 12:31:11 AM »

Here is something I wrote on the subject awhile back. It comes from my book Mystery and Meaning: Christian Philosophy and Orthodox Meditations   (Sorry for the shameless self promotion Embarrassed)

                                   PRAYERS for the DEAD?
   First, it is imperative to understand that apostolic teaching and tradition is as divinely inspired as the Word of God. And far from contradicting the Word of God (The Bible), Church Tradition illuminates and clarifies the Scriptures so that we do not fall prey to subjective human interpretations. (Whatever one may think about Orthodoxy, there is far more consistency and unity of belief amongst Orthodox Churches than there is amongst the multitude of Protestant sects and cults. This is undoubtedly due to the Orthodox belief in the Divine authority of Apostolic Tradition as well as the Holy Bible.)
   So the question at hand is whether or not it is appropriate to pray for the dead. Since Protestants hold to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura*, I will provide three biblical precedents – one from the Old Testament and two from the New Testament – each from books that all Protestants consider as canonical:

1. Moses prayed for Reuben after he had died.
   "Let Reuben live and not die." [Deuteronomy 33:6]
                                       
2. Peter prayed for Tabitha after she had died.
   "Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord." [Acts 9:36-42]

3. St. Paul prayed for Onesiphorus after he had died.
   “The Lord grant mercy to household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. The Lord grant to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day…” [II Timothy 1:16-18]  

   Now since Protestants must concede the biblical basis for praying for the dead, they often resort to critiquing how and why we Orthodox pray for the dead. But it is arrogant and dangerous to judge the prayers of another, especially when those prayers are offered to God on behalf of others.
   Prayers for the dead are one of the greatest forms of prayer; for they are not prayers for ourselves, but rather prayers of altruistic intercession. Our prayers for the dead are a profound act of faith. That we pray even for those who have departed from this earth is evidence that we trust in the Cross of Christ and hope in the inexhaustible grace of God. God is bigger than we think, the Cross is more powerful than we think, and divine grace is more abundant than we think. Where Protestants see death as the end of hope, we Orthodox see Christ as greater than death. And thus we pray even for those who have died, trusting that God surpasses our earthly limitations and our temporal mindsets.
   One of the reasons I became Orthodox was its acceptance of divine mystery. Protestantism is the product of too much rationalism. The supernatural is not irrational, but there are mysteries that surpass mortal reason and transcend the limitations of human intellect.
   God is not bound by space and time, as are mortal creatures. From our linear perspective death is final, and it would appear that physical death is the end of all hope. But why should we reduce sacred truths to our finite understanding? God transcends space and time, and He is Lord over life and death. By faith we pray even for the deceased, trusting that the power of God is greater than our mortal understanding.
   Protestants profess a doctrine of "Sola Scriptura," but their own doctrine often trips them up. For example, Protestants may quote Hebrews 9:27 as an argument against praying for the dead: "It is appointed unto man once to die, and then the Judgment." They will say that according to this verse no person can die twice, and thus prayers for the dead are futile. But didn't Lazarus die twice? And as we have seen above, so did Tabitha. Not to mention that the Bible tells us of the prophets who raised people from the dead. [Hebrews 11:35]
   The point is that our Orthodox practice of praying for the dead will never be understood by those who hold to "Sola Scriptura." The doctrine of "Sola Scriptura" has produced thousands of Protestant sects and cults, each one claiming to be more biblically sound than the next. As Orthodox Christians we know that the Holy Bible is the Word of God, and that's why we dare not sift the sacred Scriptures through subjective human opinion. Rather we allow those who walked with Our Lord and were anointed at Pentecost to interpret its true meaning and guide us in its proper understanding.
   So, we have established that there is both an Old Testament and New Testament biblical precedent for praying for the dead. We have shown how prayers for the deceased are based on selflessness and altruism. We have explained that praying for the dead is an act of faith, demonstrating our trust in the inexhaustible grace and mercy of God. And we have reasoned that it is better to defer to infallible divine mystery than to rely on our own fallible human understanding. So if Protestants choose not to pray for us when we die, then so be it. But let us nevertheless pray for them- both in life and in death.

"O death where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?"
[I Corinthians 15:55]


   *The doctrine of “Sola Scriptura” was first promoted by Martin Luther and provides the foundational source of Christian authority for Protestants. Sola Scriptura means “Scripture alone,” and thus Protestants claim that the Bible is the only true source of Christian authority. Protestants reject apostolic teaching and tradition, which is the historical and original source of true Christian authority.   


                                       by Gebre Menfes Kidus

Selam
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« Reply #16 on: September 16, 2009, 12:56:49 AM »

An excellent post Gebre!  Thanks for sharing it.  However, I am curious:

As Orthodox Christians we know that the Holy Bible is the Word of God, and that's why we dare not sift the sacred Scriptures through subjective human opinion.

Is this really a title that the Orthodox use for the Bible?  I have heard the sacred writings referred to as the Holy Scriptures, but I thought that Christ alone was the Word (λόγος) of God, and that referring to the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God was actually a Protestant practice.
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« Reply #17 on: September 16, 2009, 04:07:29 PM »

The Rich man most certainly did pray for himself...
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« Reply #18 on: September 16, 2009, 05:20:01 PM »

I think i'm going to stick with the quote Douglas provided by Fr. Stanley and leave it at that.  That makes the most sense to me.

One more question. Do Orthodox pray for departed non-believers?
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« Reply #19 on: September 16, 2009, 06:19:32 PM »

An excellent post Gebre!  Thanks for sharing it.  However, I am curious:

As Orthodox Christians we know that the Holy Bible is the Word of God, and that's why we dare not sift the sacred Scriptures through subjective human opinion.

Is this really a title that the Orthodox use for the Bible?  I have heard the sacred writings referred to as the Holy Scriptures, but I thought that Christ alone was the Word (λόγος) of God, and that referring to the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God was actually a Protestant practice.

Thanks for the question. Can anyone else answer this? My use of this term may be the result of Protestant hangover. Would it be better if I changed "the Word of God" to "God's divine written revelation to humanity"?

Thanks for the help and clarification.

Selam
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« Reply #20 on: September 16, 2009, 07:15:35 PM »

Yes, I believe that referring to the Bible as "the Word of God" can be interpreted as a form of idolatry, since the Word of God is the identity of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. I think this this is a common error that many former or current protestants fall into. (including myself!)
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« Reply #21 on: September 16, 2009, 07:26:24 PM »

Yes, I believe that referring to the Bible as "the Word of God" can be interpreted as a form of idolatry, since the Word of God is the identity of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. I think this this is a common error that many former or current protestants fall into. (including myself!)

Thanks. I will make the change in my book, and will be careful not to use this term in the future. Is the term "God's divine written revelation to humanity" accurate and acceptable?

Selam
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« Reply #22 on: September 17, 2009, 02:04:03 AM »

Since the bible is the witten word of God, so i would assume, calling it the word or words of God shouldn't make any difference...The Bible is venerated [kissed ] in church....
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« Reply #23 on: September 21, 2009, 11:22:55 AM »

... referring to the Bible as "the Word of God" can be interpreted as a form of idolatry..."

You gotta be kidding.... Have you never heard of the Icon of the Word of God?
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« Reply #24 on: September 21, 2009, 07:59:02 PM »

... referring to the Bible as "the Word of God" can be interpreted as a form of idolatry..."

You gotta be kidding.... Have you never heard of the Icon of the Word of God?

I think we must delineate between "the Icon of the Word of God" and the "Word of God" Himself. To call the Scriptures "The Word of God" is to confuse the two of these, IMO.

Likewise, do we call the icons of Christ Christ Himself?
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« Reply #25 on: September 21, 2009, 08:17:11 PM »

Yes, I believe that referring to the Bible as "the Word of God" can be interpreted as a form of idolatry, since the Word of God is the identity of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. I think this this is a common error that many former or current protestants fall into. (including myself!)

Well, it'd be bibliolatry, surely?  Wink

... The Bible not being by any stretch of the imagination an idol. You know, this must be one of those things where we've had different experiences - I certainly know of some Protestants who use the phrase 'the Word of God' more often than they say 'Bible'. You can't win!

... actually, what's wrong with saying, 'the Bible'? Is this considered wrong or disrespectful in the Orthodox Church?
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