|Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries||Orthodox Practices|
MEMORIAL SERVICES IN ANCIENT ISRAEL
The majority of non-Orthodox Christians has a disregard for memorial services for their deceased as a Christian practice. Just because they were taught thus, they believe it is a practice that is foreign to the Christian Church. But this is where they are wrong, because the Christian Church has been observing the ritual of memorials from a long time ago: from the era of the Judaic faith itself, and has become its natural continuant and legatee.
In this first part of our study on memorial services, we will be seeing elements pertaining to it in the Holy Bible, thus evidencing that memorial services have been a constant practice of the pre-Christian Church of Christ.
There is an entire book (in Greek) on the subject of memorial services, written by the God-sent preacher Demetrios Panagopoulos, titled “Lest We Wrong Our Deceased”. (This book is available at a special Athens bookshop, as well as other shops. It is from this book that we are presenting a sample of its contents here).
Most non-Orthodox groups lack a clear understanding of what is involved “post-mortem”, which explains why they cannot comprehend the reason for the ritual.
We cannot help them directly – by pointing out what the Fathers had written – because many Christian groups recognize only 66 of the Books of the Holy Bible and nothing else as a source of the Faith. In other words, the problem broadens, as it affects their acceptance of the rest of the Church’s holy Tradition, but also their eschatology, which is usually erroneous.
Let us now look at several verses from within the Old Testament, which evidence the perennial custom by the worshipers of the true God, by performing memorial services:
1 Kingdoms (1 Samuel) 31:13: "Then they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days".
Why did they bother to fast? What was the purpose of fasting for a dead person, if it wasn’t for the sake of his soul?
1 Kingdoms (2 Samuel) 1:12: “And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son...”.
The same question here. What was the object of fasting, if not for a memorial service?
Jeremiah 16:7: “Nor shall men break bread in mourning for them, to comfort them for the dead; nor shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or their mother”.
The prophet Jeremiah highlights here that when God commanded Israel to abstain from the locals because of their sinfulness (in preceding chapter 15) and to show them no mercy whatsoever, He specified that they must not even participate in their mourning rituals, where it was the custom to break bread with the mourners and to offer them a drink of consolation for the loss of their parents...
Wisdom of Sirach 7:33-34: “Be generous to every living soul, and do not obstruct grace for the dead.
It is unfortunate, that the grace of prayers for the dead and for the repose of their soul is disregarded by many of the faithful, as well as many misinformed people.
Nehemiah 9:1-3: “Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads. Then those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for one-fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God.”
OK, they confessed their own sins; but why did they confess “the iniquities of their fathers”, if not to ask God for His forgiveness on their behalf?
Â´ Ìáêêáâáßùí 12:40-45: “Then under the tunic of each one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Judeans to wear. And it became clear to all that this was the reason these men had fallen. So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous judge, who makes visible the things that are hidden, and they turned to supplication, imploring that the sin that had been committed might be wholly blotted out. The noble Ioudas exhorted the people to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened as the result of the sin of those who had fallen. He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Hierosolyma to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and onorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead so that they might be delivered from their sin.”
Here also, one more time, we can clearly see the specific tactic of the ancient Church of Israel, of praying for the sins of the dead – in other words, enacting a memorial ritual. Naturally this tactic was preserved by the Christian Church, to this day, and only those who had removed themselves from that age-old tradition of the Church have been disregarding memorial services that are being held in the recent centuries. In doing so, they have been wronging their dearly departed ones, who are in such need of their prayers...
Of the abovementioned references, certain non-Orthodox groups have not acknowledged the Book of Wisdom of Sirach and the Book of Maccabees, because they have arbitrarily chosen to remove several Books from “their” Bible. The remaining Books have been acknowledged; however, attempts are being made to corrupt them. But they cannot deny the fact that the practice of memorial services continues to be observed by the faithful.
In a forthcoming article, we shall present evidence regarding the memorial services that are observed by the Christian Church, which has continued this practice of the faithful worshippers of God.
Translation by A.N.
Article created: 16-11-2018.
Updated on: 16-11-2018.