Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Last Night Was The Trisagion for the Departed

Fr. John came down from S.F. to lead us in prayer for my son Billy. The service he lead us in wasn't just the standard Trisagion for the Departed I was expecting but an expanded version of that short service. It contained at least one Psalm prophecying Jesus death on the Cross, and a composite of various scriptures that seemed to put a lament for the dead Jesus in the mouth of the Father. I am astounded by God who in every way became like us, including subjecting himself to losing a loved one to death and even dying himself. How easy it is for Him to show us mercy, how quick he is to give us comfort for He has felt these hurts himself.

Many people came to pray with us. Our little house was very full. Everyone brought much good food and strong drink. Special thanks to my sister for home-made buffalo wings. I have had buffalo wings in the past be never liked them. In fact, I tried some of my sister's last night and thought they were too spicy. But tonight I tried them again and really enjoyed them. Also, my friend Jeff came and brought a bottle of port wine to share. It was really really good.

A couple of people who are not Orthodox Christians asked me about prayers for the dead. I don't really have much of an explanation for it. But it seems to that if praying for the dead is something the Church has always done from, at least, 160 B.C., and if praying for the dead is something St. Paul did and if the early fathers of the Church said it is something we ought to do, and if it has been done right up to this day, it is something I ought to do. So, I guess I am simply resting on Tradition and not doing any kind of heavy intellectual work in trying to figure out if praying for the dead is okay. Nevertheless, it seems to me that there are four facts should lead a reasonable person to pray for the dead.

1. The Last Judgment has not happened yet, so things are still subject to change.
2. God listens to the prayers of his people.
3. God is always merciful and desires the destruction of no one.
4. God is not bound by time or by death, so he can be merciful to us both before and after we die.

I think taken together, these four things alone mandate that I must pray for the people I love who have gone down to the grave. But as for me, I just do it because we have always done it. The older I get the less I trust reason. But I do trust in the mercy of God.

Image: Peter-Paul Rubens, Judas Maccabaeus Praying for the Dead, Museum of Nantes - Musee de Beaux-Arts,

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