Memory Eternal, A Teaching Unit on Bereavement (Lesson Seven: Pascha and the Prayers of Saints)

Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free.
He that was taken by death has annihilated it!
He descended into Hades and took Hades captive! He embittered it when it tasted His flesh! And anticipating this, Isaiah exclaimed: “Hades was embittered when it encountered Thee in the lower regions”.
It was embittered, for it was abolished!
It was embittered, for it was mocked!
It was embittered, for it was purged!
It was embittered, for it was despoiled!
It was embittered, for it was bound in chains!
It took a body and came upon God!
It took earth and encountered Ηeaven!
It took what it saw, but crumbled before what it had not seen!
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hades, where is thy victory?
Christ is risen, and you are overthrown!
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen!
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is risen, and life reigns!
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb!
For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the first-fruits of them that have slept.

“Christ is risen from the dead, Trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.” We sing this over and over on Pascha night. Why? What are we celebrating? Death no longer can hold us captive because Jesus destroyed it. Death is only a body sleeping while the soul rejoices having entered the presence of God.

Prayers of the Saints for us: When Fr. Jacob was alive on earth and we needed his prayers, we called him, texted him, emailed him. Now we need only ask in our spirit, in our hearts: Father Jacob please pray for me. We need not wait for a return call, a reply email, there is no voice mail. Those who are asleep in Christ, are also alive in Christ. They can take all the prayer requests that we can ever, ever, heap on them. Their in-box does not get full. Those whom we loved, who are asleep in Christ, are on the fastest speed dial, the quickest favorites list ever. You need only seek their prayers and help, and they will intercede for you, because they are fully in the presence of Christ. Does that mean that Christ is not in our own midst? Certainly not. “Christ is in our midst! He is and ever shall be.” Now we see Christ and the angels, but it is like looking through a cloudy glass or mirror. But for those who have fallen asleep in Christ, they see Him “face to face” (1 Corinth. 13:12). Such prayers from one who is “face to face” with Christ are very powerful and very effectual. What is written on St. John the Wonderworker’s scroll? “the prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Having known faithful Christians on earth and then having them praying for us after they have reposed is amazing thing. It is a gift to all of us.

It’s real: When I came home early in the morning after Mary Evelyn’s 40 day memorial, I was crying. Hard. I sat down on my couch and tried to compose myself for my husband’s sake. Just for something to do, without reason I opened a little side drawer on our side table. There, in the back was a mother’s day box Mary Evelyn had made for me in kindergarten. I knew she had put it in there because that was a drawer she put odd things in like fake credit cards for playing hotel.

I opened the box and found three poems:

  1. “With each new day I put away the past
    And discover new beginnings
    I have been given”
    by Angela Wozniak 
  2. Out beyond the ideas of the final way
    And the only way there is a dreamy field
    I’ll meet you there”
    by Rumi
  3. I like your eyes
    I like your nose
    I like your mouth
    Your ears, your hands your toes
    I like your face
    It’s really you
    I like the things you say and do
    There’s not a single soul
    Who sees the skies
    The way you see them
    Through your eyes
    And aren’t you glad
    You should be glad
    There’s no one exactly like you
    by Andra Willia Muhoberac

So you may be wondering why the last one was significant: the last week of her life, Mary Evelyn told me in her haste to confess everything, that she didn’t think I was pretty. I was really hurt by that although I didn’t show it. This was a way of healing that hurt.

The other two poems were just sweet reminders. Also in the box was a drawing of Mary Evelyn and me, a note that said I love you, and a portrait of me.

I believe she saw my grief and on that special day, I got a message of love.

It’s real. They pray for us and if we look for it, we see the realness all around us, giving us courage and love to run our races in this life.

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