Tuesday, November 1, 2011

All Souls' Day - Now pray we for our dead

The Place of Meeting, by T. Noyes Lewis,
published as a print shortly after World War I

Today we thank God that our faith journey into the infinity of his love does not end when we die . . . that our communion, our fellowship, our belonging to the one great community of love enveloping heaven and earth and blurring the boundary between them - the Holy Catholic Church - is not interrupted by the death of any of its members, who remain bound together in the love of Christ.

At Mass we pray "for those we love but no longer see," because we know that God's healing, sanctifying and transforming grace continues its work within them, preparing them for the vision of his heavenly glory . . . through no merit of theirs or ours, but only because of the "full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction" of Jesus on the Cross, which avails for the salvation of us all.

Here are a few words from the Anglican tradition about praying for those who have died, followed by Joseph Ratzinger's explanation of purgatory as transformation through our encounter with the Lord.

HERBERT THORNDIKE (1598-1672) Canon of Westminster Abbey
“The practice of the Church in interceding for them at the Celebration of the Eucharist is so general and so ancient, that it cannot be thought to have come in upon imposture, but that the same aspersion will seem to take hold of the common Christianity.”

LANCELOT ANDREWES (1555-1626) Bishop of Winchester
"The Sacrifice of Christ's death is available for present, living and dead."

JOHN COSIN (1594-1672) Bishop of Durham who assisted in the 1662 revision of the Prayer Book
He said that refusing to pray for the departed implied that they were no longer part of the mystical Body of Christ, and that in the Eucharist we ”offer up the sacrifice of the Church unto God, to apply the effect of Christ's sacrifice unto the party deceased for his resurrection again at the last day, and for his receiving his perfect consummation of bliss, both in soul and body, in the Kingdom of Heaven."

C.S. LEWIS (1898-1963) Anglican layman
"Of course I pray for the dead. The action is so spontaneous, so all but inevitable, that only the most compulsive theological case against it would deter me. And I hardly know how the rest of my prayers would survive if those for the dead were forbidden. At our age, the majority of those we love best are dead. What sort of intercourse with God could I have if what I love best were unmentionable to him? . . . Our souls demand Purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, ‘It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy’? Should we not reply, ‘With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I’d rather be cleaned first.’ ‘It may hurt, you know’ – ‘Even so, sir.’"

"Purgatory is not, as Tertullian thought, some kind of supra-worldly concentration camp where one is forced to undergo punishments in a more or less arbitrary fashion. Rather it is the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God [i.e., capable of full unity with Christ and God] and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints. Simply to look at people with any degree of realism at all is to grasp the necessity of such a process. It does not replace grace by works, but allows the former to achieve its full victory precisely as grace. What actually saves is the full assent of faith. But in most of us, that basic option is buried under a great deal of wood, hay and straw. Only with difficulty can it peer out from behind the latticework of an egoism we are powerless to pull down with our own hands. Man is the recipient of the divine mercy, yet this does not exonerate him from the need to be transformed. Encounter with the Lord is this transformation. It is the fire that burns away our dross and re-forms us to be vessels of eternal joy."
(Eschatology: Death and Eternal Life, page 229)


O Father of all,
we pray for those we love
but now no longer see.
Grant them thy peace;
let light perpetual shine upon them;
and in thy loving wisdom and almighty power
work in them the good purpose of thy perfect will.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of thy servants and handmaids departed this life and grant them light, joy and peace in the fellowship of Blessed Mary and all the Saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

FROM THE EASTERN CHURCH (Russian Kontakion of the Departed)
Give rest, O Christ, to thy servant with thy Saints :
where sorrow and pain are no more;
neither sighing, but life everlasting.

Thou only art immortal, the Creator and Maker of man :
and we are mortal, formed of the earth,
and unto earth shall we return :
for so thou didst ordain, when thou createdst me, saying.
Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
All we go down to the dust;
and, weeping o'er the grave we make our song :
alleluya, alleluya, alleluya.

Give rest, O Christ, to thy servant with thy Saints :
where sorrow and pain are no more;
neither sighing, but life everlasting.

Lord Jesus,
we come before you in sadness,
praying for the soul of our brother/sister N.,
who in darkness and confusion,
has taken his/her own life.
Place your loving arms around him/her,
that he/she may find healing, forgiveness and peace.
We pray, too, that you would comfort those who loved N.
and grieve his/her tragic death.
May they know the eternal God as their refuge,
their hiding place,
and their sure help in this time of trouble.
For you, Lord Jesus, suffered and died for us
and now live and reign with the Father,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
for ever and ever. Amen.

God our Father,
by your power we are brought to birth;
by your love we are redeemed in Christ;
by your providence you guide us,
and when we die you receive us to yourself.
In union with your Son Jesus Christ,
who conquered death by his dying and rising,
may N. rejoice in your kingdom,
where every tear is wiped away
and sorrow and pain are no more.
Help us who grieve N, to support one other
with our love and prayers.
We ask this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

HEALING & CLEANSING - Translated from the Swahili for the English Hymnal, 1906
Think, O Lord, in mercy on the souls of those
Who, in faith gone from us now in death repose.
Here 'mid stress and conflict toils can never cease;
There, the warfare ended, bid them rest in peace.

Often they were wounded in the deadly strife,
Heal them, good Physician with the balm of life.
Every taint of evil, frailty and decay,
Good and gracious Saviour, cleanse and purge away.

Rest eternal grant them, after weary fight:
Shed on them the radiance of thy heavenly light.
Lead them onward, upward, to the holy place,
Where thy Saints made perfect gaze upon thy face.


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