Resurrection of the Dead

As we experience the grief associated with death, we may be overwhelmed by a variety of emotions, thoughts, and questions. In these difficult moments of life, Christians are encouraged to embrace the principals of faith, namely:

  • that God who called us to life will also call us home to live eternally;
  • our human body is the vessel given to us for life in this world;
  • our real identity is tied up with our soul—that invisible yet essential part of us, which continues to exist long after we have shed our bodies;
  • whoever believes in Jesus as their Lord and Savior will not die but will live with God forever (John 3:16);
  • eternal life with God, although difficult to define with human language, will be complete and utter perfection, joy, love and holiness;
  • the love we shared with others in life, may continue to extend into the realm of eternity in the form of prayer.

Coming Of Christ In GloryThrough the Resurrection of Christ, and the promised resurrection of all the departed, death is not viewed as an ending, but as a time of repose — a time to rest from the struggles and temptations of our fallen world. Death, then, is understood by our church as a dormition–a time of sleeping. Indeed, the very word cemetery comes from a Greek term meaning a place to sleep.

At the funeral service, two things are understood to happen: first, the Saints teach us that our prayers for the departed bring him/her great comfort and joy; second, through prayers, hymns, and music, those who are left behind have a medium through which to express their grief and articulate their faith in everlasting life through Christ Jesus. The funeral ends by the faithful taking the departed to rest, looking forward to the day when the Lord will wake the loved one up from his or her repose. So these are the reasons we pray for the deceased.

According to Dr. Alexander Roman, a Ukrainian Orthodox theologian:

As we know from the New Testament, those who are enlivened by faith in Christ as members of His Body, that is the Church, are not destroyed by death but live in Christ in the next life as they and we await Christ’s joyful Second Coming when He will give us His final judgment when our souls and bodies will be united and reunited.

The Communion of the Saints which is the Church is a true Communion. If we may assist others in this life with our prayers, may we not assist them after death when they continue to live in Christ? Certainly the Church from the very beginning has always thought so and prayed for the dead and continues to do so at the Liturgy, and many other times.

We also know that nothing impure or sinful can enter into full Communion with God and Christ in the next life. Does that mean that there can only be hell for souls who have not “sinned unto death” with heavy, unrepented sins? Not at all – and how could a merciful God ever allow this?

We pray that people in this life may grow closer to God and we pray that souls in the next may come closer to God and that their sins may be loosed. And those souls that we pray for can also pray for us – the Church is a true Communion of love and prayer!

Finally, the Church’s own practice of praying for those who have reposed in the Lord comes from her own Communion with the Holy Spirit that leads and guides her in all things as the Body of Christ that she is. Scripture and Tradition, which together expresses the Word of God, comes from within the Church’s heart as it announces that same Word, which is Jesus Christ, to the world for its salvation and Theosis.