Saturday, January 17, 2015

On Praying for the Dead, Triumphant

I've suddenly come to realize, upon the occasion of the death of a Christian loved one, the paucity of formal resources for the poor layman, wishing to pray on behalf of the saint; the saint who now (by grace) is wondrously afforded a direct access to God and His Church Triumphant.  Secure in Jesus he or she may be. But that individual is still our brother and sister, still our neighbor.  He or she still exists by the mercy of God and is dependent on Him alone, if being altogether safe from the evil and temptations of this world.

The intercessions provided by the Lutheran hymnals (I've checked the pages of two so far, and have detected what could be a trend for all) and my prized Lutheran Prayer Book (LPB; Concordia Publishing House, 2003/2005; a maroon cover, yes, but still amazingly serviceable)  are frankly inadequate and tongue-tied in this matter of the dead who yet live.  The prayers  we are provided, as examples and for ready use, are lovely and spiritually nourishing for the ill, the convalescing and the dying to be sure.   LPB's "Devotion at the Approach of Death" (p.  239-243) is outstanding in confronting the realities which accompany dying, and furnishing a Christ-based comfort in the face of such.

But as to teaching the newly-grieving how to pray, Christfully,  when a loved-one is summoned to meet God's Face at last... here we are left adrift. 

Yet the Evangelical-Catholic confessors are unequivocal on the matter. The ramblings of Aelius are rejected, and the praying FOR those fallen asleep in Lord Christ's bosom is endorsed. See Ap AC XXIV.94-96.   Epiphanius (in his book detailing doctrinal malpractice, the Panarion Haereses) informs us that Aelius maintained that prayers for the dead were useless.  The papist adversaries slandered the Evangelical-Catholic party, accusing it of agreeing with the heretic.  In the Apology, Melancthon dismisses the calumny, saying flatly "we do not support Aelius [regarding such prayers]."  So then, the public acts or omissions, of "friendly" printing presses may call into question Melancthon's orthodox assertions, as to real-time Lutheran beliefs and resulting behavior ... yet again.

But I think we do have a sterling example to follow, in the Divine's own petition "Give us this day, our daily bread." You see, the dead's day may have been stretched into an eternity, yes; but they are like us in being still very much dependent on the full grace and Fatherly goodness of our King, even as they too wait for the Great and Glorious Culmination of all things.  And even with that Culmination and the emergence of a new heaven and a new earth, God alone will be our Font of all Goodness.  Right now we can cheerfully remind and thank Him for His promises of being all-sufficient forever, for ourselves and the departed. Those residing peacefully in God's bosom, I say again, are still very much our neighbor. Let us then remember and pray for those who have fought the good fight, and won, and are waiting at rest any true Lutheran confessor would.

A Prayer to Jesus, for the Dead in Christ (Modified after St. Ambrose)

You were medicine to Your servant, when she was sick;
You were her strength, when she needed help;
You were life itself, when she feared death;
You were the Way, when she longed for heaven;
You are her Light,
You in Your wisdom having banished all her earthly gloom forever.
Thank you, dear Lord Jesus.


  1. Thank you for this post. I did a Google search on the subject and found this gem over at Fr. William Weedon's blog. In the comments, he quotes from Starck's Prayer Book. Perhaps it is exactly what you were looking for.

  2. Thank you for stopping by, and researching more thoroughly than I did, what resources are available for praying on behalf of brothers and sisters asleep in Jesus.. I am delighted to hear about such things. Continuing with the personal regrets, I'm sorry I did not explore Fr.Weedon's blog for guidance ... should have known he'd have a pearl or two of great relevance, and great price, there. Pax!

  3. "But that individual is still our brother and sister, still our neighbor. He or she still exists by the mercy of God and is dependent on Him alone, if being altogether safe from the evil and temptations of this world."

    And those saints in eternity are still awaiting the resurrection of the body and, thus, still living by faith. Even in heaven, a Christian stills lives in faith, hope, and love. Faith and hope become no more on the Last Day because all is then fulfilled. Only then love remains.