Memory Eternal

Carlos Overstreet's picture

Let us never forget those who have fallen asleep. When we remember and care for the departed, we become just a little more like God. For in God, the memory of every person is eternal. He alone remembers everyone. But we who live and die must struggle and strive to do what little we can to pass down the memory of family members, and friends. When we do this act of love, we rise above our mortal life, of things passing away and of things that are fleeting, and we enter into the mystery of God's eternal life.

When a mother or father passes away without passing on the memory of their parents in love and hope, their memory dies. The grandchildren know nothing about the life of their grandparents, nor the love and kindness they showed their parents while they were children. How unfortunate and sad it is that their parents did not pass on that memory to their children. Who will visit their graves and honor them now that their children are gone? Who will tell their story to future generations so that their names might be written on the minds and hearts of others? Or remember their bravery, their courage, and their repentance? Who will offer prayers on their behalf, or place their name in the sacred liturgy that the entire Church might lift their names up before the throne of God? You can see just how hard it is even to just remember one generation. But in God they are not forgotten, but remembered forever. In fact, they are alive in him awaiting the general resurrection.

What does the Church ask us to do? For starters, we should remember the departed in prayer. We have an example from scripture in the righteous Maccabees who prayed for their fallen kinsmen, and brought them to be buried with their fathers, so that their memory might be honored.

"On the next day, as by that time it had become necessary, Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen and to bring them back to lie with their kinsmen in the sepulchers of their fathers... So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous Judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; and they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out." (2 Maccabees 12:39, 41-42)

Secondly we should give the departed a noble burial. One of the corporal works of mercy is to bury the dead. When we properly honor the departed not by the scattering of ashes as is common now, but by interning them in a sacred place of honor, as St. Nikolai says, we bury ourselves with that person, enabling our love for that person to be shown to the living community and the departed.

"Man is sublime when he cares for the living; man is more than sublime when he cares for the dead. A man often cares for the living out of selfishness. But what selfishness can there be in a man’s caring for the dead? Can the dead pay him, or express their gratitude? Some animals bury their dead; giving them to the grave, they give them over to forgetfulness. But when a living man buries a dead one, he buries a part of himself with the dead man and returns home carrying a part of the dead man in his soul. This is especially clear – terribly clear – when a kinsman buries a kinsman, and a friend a friend." (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Homily on The Second Sunday After Easter: The Gospel on the Myrhh-Bearing Women)

And lastly, do not neglect the power of supplication in liturgy. Whenever there is a memorial service, or chance for commemoration at liturgy, do it. Offer their names before the Church so that we together may lift their names before Christ-God and take heart that God has heard the prayers of his people, and will honor them. For as St. John the Wonderworker says, the commemoration at liturgy, is even more important than the prayer of an individual saint:

"How important commemoration at the Liturgy is may be seen in the following occurrence: Before the uncovering of the relics of St. Theodosius of Chernigov, the elder Alexis of Goloseyevsky Hermitage, who was conducting the re-vesting of the relics, becoming weary while sitting by the relics, dozed off and saw before him the Saint, who told him: “I thank you for laboring with me. I beg you also, when you will serve the Liturgy, to commemorate my parents” — and he gave their names (the Priest Nikita and his wife Maria). “How can you, O Saint, ask my prayers, when you yourself stand at the heavenly Throne and grant to people God’s mercy?” the elder asked. “Yes, that is true,” replied St. Theodosius, “but the offering at the Liturgy is more powerful than my prayer.” (St. John the Wonderworker, Homily on Life after Death)

Share this: