Cemeteries and praying for the dead continued...
Church cemeteries are an ancient Tradition, for the Church affirms the "Communion of Saints", i.e. the essential unity in God of all those sanctified and redeemed by Christ Jesus. Thus as St. Paul writes in his Epistle to the Church in Rome: " I am certain of this, neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing yet to come, can ever come between us and the love of God, made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord." Thus whether dead or alive, the prime reality is our redemption in Christ Jesus and our sure hope in His Raising us from sin and death. In fact, the term used for those who have died, both in the Scriptures and in the Church is: "Reposed", for any who have been baptized into the Christ await the Resurrection and thus have, as it were, "fallen asleep" in Christ. Those who are "Reposed" in the Lord are no less "Alive" in Christ and have a place and home in the Church, the Body of Christ. And the Evangelist, St. John recording the words of Jesus the Messiah:
" Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live... all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life..."
Likewise St. Paul writes in his First Epistle to the Church in Thessalonika:
" We want you to be quite certain...about those who have died, to make sure you do not grieve about them, like those...who have no hope.
We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with Him. We can tell you this from the Lord's own Teaching, that any of us who are left alive until the Lord's Coming will not have any advantage over those who have died.
At the trumpet of God, the voice of the archangel will call out the command and the Lord Himself will come down from heaven; those who have died in Christ will be the first to Rise, and then those of us who are still alive will be taken up in the clouds, together with them, to meet the Lord in the air.
"So we shall stay with the Lord for ever. With such thoughts as those you should comfort one another." (I Thess. 4:13-18)
PRAYING FOR THE DEAD
It is the Church's tradition to pray for the dead. And so, following the traditional Canons of the Church, we pray for the Reposed: on the day of death
the 3d day after death,
the 9th day after death,
the 40th day after death,
and the annual and semi-annual anniversaries.
There are appointed times in the Church Calendar when we pray for the Reposed, e.g. the "Soul Saturdays" which fall during the Great Fast and the Saturday before Pentecost. Given that we are still a relatively small parish, we also pray for our Reposed parishioners by Name during the Litiya Prayers during the Vigil Service of Feast days.
The "Parastas" or "Order of Burial" is a beautiful funeral service which both expresses the grief of the bereaved and the proclamation of hope in the Resurrection and Life of Risen Christ. The Priest prays:
" O God of spirits and of all flesh, who have trampled down Death by and defeated the Devil, and given Life to your world: give rest, O Lord, to the soul of your departed servant (Name) in a place of brightness, a place of refreshment, a place of repose, where all sickness, mourning, and sorrow have fled."
The Congregation sing:
O tell us now, dear brother/sister, where are you going, in silence... Return to us...
The terrible hour of death is fallen upon me. Come all you who love me, greet me with a final kiss...I go before the Judge, but I beg all you and entreat unceasingly, that you pray to Christ God for me.
I weep and lament when I consider death, and when I think of those who are laid in the grave. Where is now that moving beauty created in the likeness of God? Where is the glorious form? O Wonder. What happened that we are now delivered up to corruption? God alone, by His will and command has power to grant peace and rest to our souls.
Beholding the sea of life surging high with the storm of temptation, I have fled to thy tranquil haven and cry out to Thee: Raise up my life from corruption, O greatly merciful One!
O Lord, from of old You have instructed me through many signs and wonders: yet I erred and was lost. But You were again moved by compassion for me and emptied Yourself that You might seek me. Find me and Save me.
The Priest prays:
"Pardon every transgression committed by him/her whether by word, or dead, or thought. For You are a good God, the Lover of Mankind: and there is no one who lives without sinning. You alone are without sin. Your Justice is everlasting Justice an your Word is Truth. or You are the Resurrection, the Life, and the Repose of Your servant (name), who is fallen asleep, O Christ our God, and we send up glory to You, with Your beginningless Father and your all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever..."