Praying for the Departed

October 27, 2015 Length: 43:33

Fr. Christophe emphasizes the very important need to break the chains of addiction, which begins, he explains, with prayers for the repose of our ancestors.

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In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Though beset by a storm of doubting thoughts, those bound by passions and addictions come with sincere repentance to thine inexpressible mercy to receive healing, singing from the depths of their hearts to our Savior, born of thee: Alleluia.

On seeing the heavy burdens and weeping and wailing, the elderly and children, the relatives of those possessed by addictions, the Lord bestowed upon them thine icon, O Sovereign Lady, and all who run to it receive consolation and spiritual joy, crying to thee with tears:
Rejoice, you Ewe-lamb who gavest birth to the Lamb who takest away the sins of the world; rejoice, cup drawing forth joy from the Source of immortality!
Rejoice, consolation of sorrowing mothers; rejoice, blessed refuge of those who run to thee!
Rejoice, hope of the hopeless; rejoice, joy and gladness of those who grieve!
Rejoice, calmer of the inner turmoil caused by addiction; rejoice, divine mercy-seat extending thine aid to those who seek it!
Rejoice, O Sovereign Lady, thou inexhaustible cup that quenches our spiritual thirst!

For those that are not aware, that have been listening to our podcasts, I begin each podcast with a set of prayers that come from our Akathist booklet, dedicated to the miraculous icon, to the Mother of God, known as the Inexhaustible Cup. This is podcast number four. My name is Fr. Christophe, and I invite all those who are benefited by this podcast to consider our humble and simple ministry of intercession and joining us in a minimum time of prayer for one another. For more information, please consider our website—www.inexhaustiblecup.org.

Today I’m going to be speaking about a very important topic. We have spoken about the fact that we are all interconnected, that the Lord has created us as a family, and that we have an entire genealogy of family members. We have already discussed how, when one person is afflicted with an illness, an addiction, then the other members are affected. We have spoken about the fact that there’s usually one or two or an entire family system that is ill or a marriage. Where there is one that is afflicted, there is another, participating in that affliction. In order for all addictions to be treated, we all have a part in our own treatment and our hoping that when we’re in relationship to someone afflicted that we are being led by Almighty God and part of the solution, part of the healing process instead of participating in the problem. So today we’re going to speak about the very important need to break the chains of addictions and ancestral sin, which we know is passed down from one generation to another.

The Orthodox method of treatment for the breaking of the chains of addictions—and any other sin, for that matter—is prayer of intercession for the souls of the reposed. Before I get to this most important topic and its value, let me first speak about another topic regarding a basic principle in Orthodox psychotherapy: the science of spiritual medicine. As you all know, I am drawing primarily from the work of Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) who has spent his whole life bringing forth the ancient and most important principles which he calls Orthodox psychotherapy for the healing of our soul and body.

One of the principles that he brings forth is the fact that the Lord has created us with the ability to remember, and he will bring forth, as he speaks of the Fathers’ teachings, the fact that our soul has the ability to enter into what God has created, which is called the eternal memory. When we speak about the memory, when I went through my graduate work, there was an extensive amount of work done in physiological psychology—biology and chemistry—going over this most important function that the brain has to remember, and they spoke about it in terms of short-term memory and long-term memory, and we know we have this capacity, physiologically. But what the Fathers introduce in this topic is the fact that, made in the image of our blessed Trinity, our Creator, the Lord himself, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are meant to share in this wonderful attribute which God has himself—memory. It has vital purpose.

My question to all of you, as I introduce this topic is whether or not you yourself are experiencing an eternal memory. As we have already reviewed, we have the ability to remember things in the not-so-distant past and in the very-distant past, but the memory that the Fathers speak of gives us the ability to be in relationship with the Lord himself in our prayer and in our day-to-day in a constant manner. We are meant to remember and to have knowledge and awareness of the presence of Almighty God in all things and everywhere in our day-to-day.

So the Lord not only gives us, as we’ve already discussed, an appetite, a thirst and a hunger for communion with him, which is the reason for his creating us, primarily, but he desires for us to be in relationship with him continuously. This eternal memory, which the Fathers speak about, is made for that purpose. Even when we are busy, even when we are about a certain task, the eternal memory allows us to be aware of the living God, aware of his presence, that he has risen from the dead, that he is the Lord, that he is our one true God, whom we worship and glorify. We are meant to remember him and acknowledge him in all things and be aware of his presence.

We know that sin disrupts our relationship with our Lord and one another. Acts of disobedience create darkness. At the same time, the Holy Spirit, uncreated light, desires to be in communion with us and seeks to remove sin and obstacles that keep us from experiencing his love and experiencing more and more love towards one another, towards our neighbor. So we are invited continuously by him to be in relationship to him. Sin creates a form of slavery where we are imprisoned and where the darkness overtakes our souls and it does not function properly. Part of that is a disruption of our ability to remember the Lord.

The Fellowship of the Inexhaustible Cup is fundamentally a fellowship of intercession, as you know, and my wife and I, many years ago, began to go beyond the Akathist prayers that we do daily to the Mother of God, to the Inexhaustible Cup, and we began to pray for the souls of the reposed, of departed loved ones in our families and others. The reason for this was because, during my training, especially within the circles of pastoral counseling, back in the ‘70s and the ‘80s when I received my training, there were many clergy and many therapists who were discussing this most important topic: the mystery of our participating through prayer in bringing healing to the souls of the reposed, which we know has been in our Orthodox Tradition for centuries.

We know that sin and addictions and patterns, particularly resentments and destructive patterns—jealousy, pride, and other destructive patterns—are passed down within our family tree. Within our holy Orthodox Church, we have a solution, if you would; we recognize the need to pray for the souls of the reposed. And these therapists at the time were all discussing the need to pray and to bring those that had an inclination and recognition that the holy mystery of the Eucharist was indeed a gift that the Church has preserved, they were speaking of the need to bring individuals to the Liturgy to pray for them.

For we know, and the Scripture teaches us, that what is bound on earth is bound in heaven. This reference, I do believe, has to do with the fact that there are members of our families who were addicted, who went to the grave and they did not have enough healing. There is a direct relationship between them and us, and we must consider remembering them and doing something for the healing of our families, and that action which brings on the most amount of grace is prayer for them: parents, grandparents. This is one of the most underestimated methods of treatment, I do believe, in the Orthodox Church. We need to take this calling on the part of Almighty God to remember members of our family and to pray for them seriously.

I know from years of clinical practice in pastoral counseling that after a couple of years, for example, working on major areas with individuals, especially depression, chronic depression, and other forms of mental illness, that often one of the things that is needed after a couple of years, where a person is not able to still acquire a level of freedom from self-destructive tendencies or patterns, that it is often linked to the need to pray for members within their family tree. So we do a genealogy and we try to remember and get information on individuals—parents and grandparents and relatives—that may be in need of prayer today.

Now, the Orthodox Tradition is rich in this regard, and at every Liturgy priests and deacons re-enact the passion of our Lord in the proskomede, and we pray for the living and the dead. Why is this? Because we believe that, through the holy Eucharist, the action of the Holy Spirit, the mystical presence of the Lord himself who will descend and transform bread and wine into his mystical Body and Blood, that those individuals that we bring and have prepared before the Liturgy and brought to him are placed on the paten, and the Holy Spirit is intent on bringing healing to us as he offers us the holy Eucharist. But simultaneously, anyone that we bring to him, he is intent on touching as well.

What we know is that the monastic tradition is rich and is active in participating for praying for the reposed, and for a very important reason. I remember my training as a deacon, approximately five years ago, at the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Wayne, West Virginia. I remember that during the proskomede, the preparation before, of the Gifts, I remember how wonderful it was to observe deacons, subdeacons, readers, and acolytes carefully and fervently praying for the souls of the reposed. This is something that I do believe needs to be discussed and focused on within our local parishes. The reason is because we know from clinical experience that there’s a direct relationship between those that are unhealed that have gone before us and their ongoing effects where there [are] ways in which people are not able to be free today in our relationships, in our marriages, and in our family life.

One of the most important things that the therapists and the clergy were bringing forth years ago was that to pray for them had a direct effect on our circumstances today. This is a holy mystery, but we know that when we do pray, the Lord answers, and often a missing link in breaking the chains of destructive patterns over the generations, and ancestral sin itself, that these chains are broken, by the grace of God, as we participate in the entire communion of saints and praying for the reposed.

We also know that the Lord calls us to pray for all of humanity. We are not meant just to pray for our family members, and we have a holy day, the feast of the souls, every year, and we are called on that day, and we need to be aware that we are called to pray for all of humanity, for all the souls—Orthodox and non[-Orthodox], believers and non[-believers]—and that it’s extremely important. One of the things that I would like to point out is that there are certain tendencies among people that have gone before us that may not have been healed that we can recognize, and we have to pay particular attention to those individuals who, for example, were addicted and did not receive enough freedom before their repose. We also need to pay attention to tragic deaths, premature deaths—of infants, for example. We need to pay attention and look into our genealogy, our family tree, and be intent on praying for anyone who has committed suicide or have been involved in the sin of murder. We also have to consider that there are individuals who have not had a proper Christian burial. We also need to consider children, miscarried children, and especially aborted children.

My spiritual father, Fr. Gordon—may his memory be eternal—he and I discussed this important need to pray, and when it came to the topic of praying for parents who had aborted children, he and I both recognized that there is a strong need for forgiveness to be granted to the parents of aborted children. So we pray for children as well as parents who may be in need of forgiveness at a deeper level.

The purpose is to root out resentments and fears and patterns that fuel addictions: lack of forgiveness. Forgiveness includes the whole heart. Many times I speak to people who have not necessarily been through a deeper process of the inner healing of their heart and forgiveness runs deep; while on some level they have forgiven, they still carry a certain level of resentment towards those that have gone before them. It is important to recognize, and it is an important awareness and it must be rooted out, because it has effect. It continues to create bondage. As I’ve already mentioned, the need to bring healing to the souls of the reposed affects us directly in our need to be healed today. We are interconnected.

Let me give you a little example here, as I read a few prayers regarding our own commitment to pray for those that have gone before us, and I’m going to read to you a few verses that come from the Akathist to the Lord Jesus Christ for a Loved One who has Fallen Asleep. These Akathist prayers are produced by the wonderful monastery, St. Paisios, in Arizona, and anyone interested in acquiring these little booklets can contact our Fellowship. Now this reference to the effect of those that have gone before us and the here-and-now are brought forth in the very first ikos of the Akathist prayers. So let me read a few of these prayers.

Jesus, grant that there not be bitter memories of them on earth. Jesus, for the sake of this, have mercy on those who were grieved and offended by them.

As we know here we are offering individual names. The them refers to individuals we are praying for. We are turning directly to the Lord Jesus for healing for them. And it’s important to see that, right away, we see that bitter memories on earth are meant to be removed. So we pray for those that were grieved and offended by them—that may be us, that may be individuals in our family who are carrying grievances and have not forgiven at the deeper level, not been released from sinful acts from family members.

We also know that to be involved in praying for the repose brings about an entire sensitivity as to what the soul actually needs, how it was created by God, and what souls need. So there is great benefit in praying these prayers, I have found, because the theology of the Church in terms of what the soul needs are found in these prayers, and by praying and meditating, we gain insight, not only on what members of our family and others need today in the hereafter, but what we are all in need of, what our soul is in need of in general.

We must acquire by grace freedom from the grievances and the sinful acts that are in our own past that we do remember, and especially when it comes to the very deep abuses in the area of sexual abuse, there is a need for deep healing.

On page 15, as I explain to you how we can become more sensitive to the needs of our own soul and others, there is a wonderful reference which I’d like to make a comment on.

Ikos 2:
Jesus, return to their souls the grace-filled powers of the first-created purity.

I love this reference, because this specifically refers to the very functions that our Fathers have taught us in the science of spiritual medicine, the functions of the soul themselves, which I’ve touched on already, beginning with the appetitive function. We are desiring that all those that have gone before us be restored and that the ability of the functions of the soul, the powers, be restored to a first-created purity. When Almighty God first created, there was no sin, and we see this first-created purity in very, very young children. Gradually, as sin affects the soul and the functions are disrupted, we lose this purity, and sin itself creates impurity and dismembers our ability to have communion with our Lord and with one another.

It is also important to recognize that our praying for the souls of the reposed serves another purpose, and that is that we are to imitate our Lord and Savior. It is he who prayed, who suffered during his passion, and in the very shedding of his blood, he prayed for every single man, woman, and child, for their salvation, and he was dispensing forgiveness to all mankind. We are called to imitate him in our prayer, in our love for one another, in praying for one another, and especially for the souls of the reposed. So there is a reference to that in Ikos 4:

Thou art merciful to us without measure. Thou art the only deliverer. What shall we do to the great feat of thy saving love? But as Simon of Cyrenia helped thee, the all-powerful, to bear thy Cross, so now it is pleasing to thy goodness to accomplish the salvation of our close ones with our participation.

We are called to imitate our Lord, and he desires that we participate in the salvation and the healing of others, our family members in particular. This is a great gift that our Lord gives us, and we are able to do this by our prayer and by our remembrance of them in prayer.

Now a confirmation of the grace of God touching souls at the Eucharist and during the Eucharist is referred to in Kontakion 6:

They sleep the eternal slumber of the grave, but their souls are awake, awaiting thee, O Lord, thirsting for thee, the Eternal Bridegroom. May thy words be fulfilled for the departed: Whosoever eatest my flesh and drinkest my blood has eternal life. Grant to them to eat of the mystical manna and to sing at thy throne: Alleluia!

Here we have a direct reference of the holy mystery, and there are wonderful saints in the Orthodox tradition that have even spoken about having visions of souls coming to the Liturgy and partaking of the mystical manna. We have reference also, for example, in the book, The Mountain of Silence, the author speaks of a monk who spent a lifetime forgiving his spiritual father who was ill himself, and beyond the grave, through prayer, persisted and continued to pray for the repose of his spiritual father and was given insight and granted the vision and the ability to see this spiritual father as he continued to pray and bring him to the Liturgy: the spiritual father indeed was ascending and being freed from his own sin and healed so that he could be more able to experience the holy presence of Almighty God.

It’s important that we engage in this need to pray and that we teach our children how important it is to bring names of individuals to our priest. I call upon all priests and deacons and readers and subdeacons and acolytes who may listen to this message to take hold of this wonderful method of treatment that we have. I know one priest who, during the proskomede, averages often four hours of preparation. That’s how long it takes him to carefully pray for lists and lists and lists of individuals. How great the love that this man has, and how much our Lord looks down upon us and blesses our efforts to pray for those that are in need who have gone before us!

So on the topic of remembrance, we know that we remember each other. We know that we are meant to remember and have the wonderful ability in re-enacting the very passion and the crucifixion and the resurrection of our Lord in the holy Eucharist, and that fundamentally is a remembrance of the very event, the very life, of our Lord. We are to remember his suffering in times of temptation. We are meant to be aware of the holy presence of the Lord in our lives, remembering him continuously. We praise and we worship our Lord, and we thank him for this most important ability, and particularly the one that I am trying to teach about today: the eternal memory, the remembrance of God in the here and now, all day, every day.

We are fundamentally, by doing so, entering into the love of God, the action of the Holy Spirit, beyond the grave. We are forgetting people. We must consider working against our forgetfulness to remember family members, to engage in the vehicle of love which the Lord has granted us: our ability to pray, a vehicle by which the Holy Spirit desires to heal those that have gone before us, to heal us, to heal whole generations and patterns of self-destruction and sin. We believe, as Orthodox Christians, that to pray for the repose has a direct relationship on our own need for healing, and that our own freedom can be acquired as we enter into this most precious vehicle of love: praying for others.

Let us join our Lord himself. Let us enter into a continuous habit, daily if possible, to have certain prayers dedicated for the reposed so that we can leave our own selfishness and our own patterns and focus on the need for healing to others.

Let me end today and focus on one more set of prayers from the Akathist to the Lord Jesus Christ for our Loved Ones. And let’s meditate on the reality of that which the Holy Spirit desires for all of us. Ikos 12:

Using the image of peaceful gardens of unearthly beauty and mansions bright as the sun, in the splendor of heavenly singing, thou hast revealed to us the blessedness of those who love thee. Jesus, may thy servants enter into thy joy! Jesus, clothe them with the radiance of the glory of the Father. Jesus, sanctify them with the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, may they hear the ineffable song of the cherubim. Jesus, may they ascend from glory to glory. Jesus, may they see thee face to face. Jesus, All-Merciful Judge, vouchsafe your servants, the souls of the reposed, the sweetness of paradise!

Do we not all yearn ourselves? Are we not all called to enter into the joy of the Lord? Are we participating [in] and experiencing the radiance of the Father? Do we not also desire to be sanctified by the illumination of the Holy Spirit? Are we able to hear the ineffable song of the cherubim? Are we able to ascend from glory to glory, to see his holy face? Our whole spiritual life is intended for us to heal in order for us to hear, to touch, to taste, and to see, to experience the love of the Lord, the action of the Holy Spirit, his uncreated light. May we all be committed to the removal of sin in our lives, to a life of repentance, which we will speak of further as we will go along. May we all become as little children, serving our one God and Maker, imitating him, loving him and one another.

Let us remember eternally the souls of the reposed. May their memory be eternal. May we continue to enter into the love of our Lord who desires and gives us his Body and Blood and wants us to be involved in the healing of his whole body. By grace, we thank our Lord for all of these things, and we worship him. Let us join him, let us join one another together in a fellowship of prayer for those that are in need, both the living and the reposed, and we will all further experience, in the here and now, the resurrection of our Lord and Savior himself, the Lord Jesus Christ.

My hope is the Father, my refuge is the Son, my protection is the Holy Spirit. Glory to thee, O Lord; glory to thee!