Prayers for the Departed

What is death ? A human being has a body and soul. The soul passes into the next stage of existence without loss of personality. The person is the same on either side of death. After death, the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return to God who gave it. (Eccl.12:7)

The Christian does not fear death as they take it only as sleep. Together with St. Paul, he asks_ "O death where is thy sting ? O grave where is thy victory ? (1Cor.15:55)

The word 'departed' is more apt than the word 'dead'. death is ordained for all. (Heb.9:27; Ps.80:48) and after death the Judgement. It is the solemn warning of the Old testament and the New Testament. "God shall bring every work unto judgement, with every hidden thing whether it is good or whether it is evil.(2 Cor.12:14) We shall stand before the judgement seat of God. (Rom.14: 10 -12)

Death is used in another context also. Gen. 2:7 'In the day thou eatest. thou shall die'. Adam ate, and we see him live for 900 years and more. See Eph. 2:1. He hath quickened you who were 'DEAD IN TRESPASSES AND SINS'. Again to his hearers our Lord said, 'I have come so you may have LIFE and have it abundantly'. THE SOUL that sinneth, it shall DIE'. Eze.18:4

The SOUL is in the Image and Likeness of God. At the time of death, the soul which is immortal departs from the body. The soul is not material and so it has no end as the matter has. It has, as stated earlier, understanding, the power of the soul to apprehend, to judge, to reason, and thus to know right and wrong. It has free will - the power to choose either to act or not to act.

To have a clear idea of the hereafter, we have no source expect the words of our lord and his Apostles. 
  • Our Lord said : "He who believes in Me has everlasting life." "If any eat of this bread, he shall live for ever." (Jn. 6:47, 51,56) It is therefore clear that the believer has life after death, and our Lord is in him until the day of resurrection.
  • The dead shall hear the Lords voice : Jn, 5:25  The dead daughter of Jairus, the widow's son and Lazarus heard His voice and came back to life again. St.Peter too (1 Pet.4:2) speaks of our Lord's descent to Hades and his preaching to the dead.
  • The departed ones are able to talk and communicate with our Lord as we see Moses and Elijah departed in ages past (Moses died in 1451 BC and Elijah was taken up in 805 BC - Biblical chronology) appearing and conversing with our Lord on the Mt. of Transfiguration ( Math.17:1-8;  Mark 9: 2-8; Luke 9:28-35) In Rev.6:1-9 we read about souls crying to the Lord and serving Him day and night.(7:15}
  • State of those departed in faith and hope in our Lord :
To the thief who prayed to our Lord to remember him, the Lord said : "thou shalt be WITH ME in paradise"
St.Paul in Eph. 1:23, writes about his ardent desire to depart and TO BE WITH CHRIST.

And to the Corinthians St. Paul says ( 2 Cor. 5:8) : "We are confident I say and willing to be absent from the body and to be PRESENT WITH THE LORD. In the book of Revelation we see the departed with the Lord and worshipping Him and being comforted by Him. (7:10, 14-17)
  1. It is therefore reasonable to believe that 
  2. the believer has life after death.
  3. He is with Christ.
  4. He can hear our Lord.
  5. He is able to converse with Him.
  6. He is worshipping god and know the events in the world and,
  7. He shall follow the Lamb where ever He goes. (Rev. 14:4)
Regarding the INTERMEDIATE STATE between death and resurrection, St. Paul give the comparison of the sown seed, which is never inactive. This prompts us to learn that the soul is alive, and if alive it should either grow or die, because that which has life cannot remain the same. Also, it cannot remain without communication. 

The interim period therefore is a state of rest in Christ and hope for the reward on that day.( St. Paul write about this in 2 Tim. 4:8. They will appear again with our Lord. (1 Thes. 4:14) It is this hope that encourage Paul 'to depart and be with Christ.'

The Doctors of the Holy Church and the rituals define it as a state of safety, rest, and progress. The soul is at rest after toils and hardship in the world. Temptations have ceased; the soul is sure of salvation and sanctification. The Grace of God will remain with it for its refreshment.. "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord ... that they may rest from their labours. (Rev.14:13) Death shall not be able to separate us from the love of God.

As we are alive here, the dead are alive there.  God is Good of the quick and the dead as St. Paul points out in 1 Cor. 15:12. "For now we see through a glass, darkly, but them face to face." and this hope makes him to say "to me to live in Christ and to die is gain." ( Ph. 1:21) 

The Old Testament Church, on the final  day of the important three feasts offered prayers for the departed. "Lord accept our oblations and comfort the soul taken to eternal rest and reward them in the company of Abraham, Issac and Jacob and other holy men and women." Again in Maccabees, 12:39-45, we have explicit mention of prayers for the departed.

The practice of praying for the dead has been there even during the time of our Lord. Nowhere we see Christ rebuking the practice. The early Christian Church too preserved this practice as we read in Rom. 14:8, 9. St.Paul says  our Lord is the Lord of the quick and the dead. 

Again the Incarnation of our Lord, His Fasting , His Sacrifice, His preaching in the Hades, His Resurrection, His Ascension and His pleading for us at the right hand of God was for all - from the beginning to the end. Taking Him as an example, we are to wish and pray for the salvation of all.

Those benefited by prayers are:-
  • Those who have departed in Holy faith.
  • Those who were worthy of the Grace of God.

Those NOT benefited by the prayers are :-
  • Those who are unbelievers in the Lord Christ.
  • Those who were in the state of mortal sin and unworthy of the grace of God.
By death the body and soul are separated and the body returns to dust. But on THAT day the body is risen and joining the soul and have eternal bliss or eternal damnation. (Is. 26:19; Dan, 12:2; Jn. 5:28; Rom. 6:5; 1 cor. 15

Our duties to the departed:-

Prayer and fasting for them and remembering them in the Holy Mass especially on their commemoration day.
Extracts from Hoodaya CANON:-

We have have special prayers for the departed on the 3rd. day because our Lord rose from the dead on the 3rd. day, and them on the 9th. day and the people lamented for Moses, and on the 40th. day since our Lord ascended to heaven on the 40th. day. and also on the annual day.

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