Monday, March 7, 2016
Saint Paisios on Praying for the Departed
Is it possible, Elder, for the dead (other than the Saints) who have not entered yet into judgment to pray?
They regain awareness and seek help, but they’re not able to help themselves. All those who are in Hades for only one offence, would ask if Christ could give them only five minutes to repent. We who are alive still have time for repentance, but the unfortunate reposed, they cannot improve their condition, so they await our help. Therefore, our duty is to help them with our prayer.
My thoughts tell me that only ten out of a hundred of those who are dead are in a demonic state, and where they are, they curse God, like the demons. They do not ask for help, nor do they want help. What would God do with them otherwise? Like a child that distances themselves from their father, who after squandering their fortune they go on to curse their father. What can the father do? Others who have died, if they have a little philotimo, sense their guilt, repent and suffer for their sins, they ask for help and are helped positively with the prayers of the faithful.
Thus, God gives them a chance, even now, as they are awaiting judgment, to find help before the Second Coming happens. And, as in this earthly life, the one who is a friend of the king may intervene to the king and help on behalf of someone awaiting trial, so it is the same with someone who is a friend of God, they may with their prayer help the dead move from one prison to another better one; from one jail cell to a better one. He can even move them into a room or into an apartment.
Just as we relieve prisoners by bringing them refreshments and other things, so also we relieve the dead, with the prayers and alms we do on behalf of their souls. Prayers and memorials from those who are still alive on behalf of the reposed is the last opportunity that the Lord gives to help the reposed, until the Last Judgement. After their trial, it will not be possible to help them anymore.
God wants to help the reposed, because He hurts for their salvation, but He does not do it, because He has nobility. He does not want to give the right to the devil to say: "Why did You save him, although he has not laboured?" When we pray for the reposed, we give God the right to intervene. God is more moved when we pray for the reposed rather than the living.
This is why our Church has kollyva (boiled what) and memorials. Memorials are the best lawyers for the souls of the reposed. They have the ability to remove souls even from hell. So also should you, in every Divine Liturgy, to read memorials and have kollyva for the reposed. There is meaning to the wheat: It is sown in corruption, and raised in incorruption, that is, it symbolizes the death and resurrection of humanity, as Scripture says.
Elder, do the ones who recently died have greater need of prayer?
When they sentence someone to jail, isn’t it true that it is more difficult for them at the beginning? We have to pray for the reposed who didn’t please God while alive, so that God will do something for them. Particularly when we know that someone was hardened - because we might have thought they were hardened, but in reality they weren't - and lived a sinful life, then we have to pray a lot - with Divine Liturgies. Forty Liturgies are to be served consecutively for their soul, alms should be given to the poor for the salvation of their soul, so that the poor will pray for them saying, "May their bones become sanctified," so God will have mercy on them. Thus whatever they have not done, we will do for them. Meanwhile one person who had goodness even if their life was not good, can be helped much with a little prayer.
I am aware of events that testify how much the reposed are helped through the prayers of spiritual people. Someone once came to my Hut and said to me in tears, "Elder, I didn't pray on behalf of a certain reposed man who was known to me, and he appeared in my dreams. He told me that it had been twenty days and I did not help him, but now he suffers because I forgot him. Indeed, for twenty days I had forgotten due to the various concerns of life, and I had not even prayed for myself."
When someone dies and we’ve been asked to pray for them, is it good, Elder, to pray a full prayer rope on their behalf for forty days?
If you pray the full prayer rope for them, pray at the same time for all the reposed. Why should the whole train go to its destination for only one passenger, when it is able to fit many others? How many unfortunate dead have need and seek for help, but there is no one to pray for them! People sometimes only do memorial services for someone who was their relative or very close. By doing it this way they do not help even their own, because their prayer is not so pleasing to God. As they have made so many commemorations for their close one, let them also make commemorations for all those who are strangers.
Elder, the dead who do not have people to pray for them, are they helped by those who generally pray for the reposed?
Of course they are helped. When I pray for all the reposed, I see my parents in my dreams, because they are at rest from my prayers. Every time I have a Divine Liturgy, I do a general memorial for all the reposed. If I sometimes do not pray for the reposed, then the reposed who are known to me appear before me. A relative of mine, who was killed in the war, I saw him in front of me after the Divine Liturgy, during the memorial, because I didn't have his name written with the others who had reposed, since he was commemorated during the Preparation of the Gifts with those who had fallen heroically. You also, at the Holy Prothesis, do not only commemorate the names of the sick, but also the names of the reposed, because the reposed have greater need.
After death people continue to maintain the powers of their consciousness, and can continue to communicate with God. I do not mean that the soul will pray to God asking for this or that thing, or this or that favour. When I say pray, I mean the energy that unites people with God.
With this kind of prayer, the dead can communicate with the entire human race, in the same way we communicate and pray for the souls of the dead. This is why we have memorials. It is the way we use to communicate, through the grace of the Holy Spirit, with those who have already left for the great journey.
Death does not separate us!