|The Departed ones|
The Syrian Orthodox believe that the departed souls of the faithful are quick and hence they pray for them. If Praying for the departed meant praying for the dead, it is futile. If praying for the living is beneficial, it is equally good praying for the departed, for the souls which are separated from the bodies are still alive. If the soul dies when the body separates, then religion come to an end. Then there is a God and He is just, then the wicked who flourished in this life must be punished and the righteous who suffered should be rewarded after this life. Unless their souls are quick and there is a Judgement, our discussion is vain and there will be neither religion nor any Philosophy of Religion.
The practice of praying and fasting for the dparted ones was existing among the Jews in the Old Testament period. We see several instances of that kind in the Old Testament. Judas Macabeus who lived about B.C. 168 is seen collecting money and sending to jerusalem as offering for the remission of the sins of those who died in the war. The Old Testament practice was contiuned in the Christian Church as there was no reason to put a stop to the same.
In the canonical prayers and in the Holy Eucharist, the Syrians remember the departed and pray for their remission. It is believed that the Holy Mass which is mystically identified with the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, is capable of giving pardon to the souls of the departed. Christ died on the Cross to save all men, from Adam to the time of his crucifixion and from the time of crucifixion to the day of Judgment, both the dead and the living.
Christ, after he was entombed, went in the spirit to preach to the departed souls. If Christ's sacrifice was efficacious in expiating the sins of the departed, the Eucharist which is mystically one with the same and is a contiunation of that, is capable of expiating the sins of those who are emembered in it. The last 'Tubaden' or intercession in the Holy Mass said by the cheif server is exclusively fo the departed.
The Syrian Orthodox believe that the departed are invisibly present and parking in the Holy Mass. When the clebrant says the last dismissal he is addressing 'the living with the departed'. The very first prayer in both the Common Prayer Book of laymen and the S'heemo prayer book of the clergy is exclusively for the departed.
They celebrate the death anniversary of their departed ones with offering of Holy Mass for them. Those who can afford conduct a feast also on that day, feeding the clebrant, sexton, friends and near relatives. Those who attend the feast also pray for the departed ones. They believe that such celebration of Mass, the offering of incense at their tombs and the prayers for them all help the expiation of their minor sins which remain. Some persons when they write their will make provisions for the expenses of these annual events after their death.
On the death anniversary day, after the Holy Mass, the celebrant goes to the tomb of the person in question and offers incense there, placing the wooden Cross and two lighted candles. If the actual grave is not within easy reach of the place where the Holy Mass is offered, they offer incense in the chancel placing Cross and lighted candles there, The relatives prostrate there, some shedding tears, pray for the deceased, touch the Cross and kiss the hand of the celebrant. The relatives usually bring small size candle and light round the grave or tomb before the incensing is done. Some bring flowers and strew them over the grave to honour the departed.
The prayers for the burial of the departed are solemn and important. As soon as one dies the matter is reported to the parish preist, a Cross and two candles on the candleholders are taken from the Church to the house of the deceased and arranged at the head side of the dead person. According to the practice in Kerala, an oil lamp is kept lighted there from that day till the fortieth day, signifying that the soul of the deceased is still about the place.
Arrangement will be made to celebrate Holy Mass for the departed upto forty days as is done in Kerala. They believe that the soul of the departed is allowed by God to go about freely and see round the whole universe for those forty days and on the fortieth day it is given rest. All the faithful ones enter Paradise on the fortieth day after death and remain waiting for the last day of resurrection. This celebration of Mass for forty days is meant to cleanse the soul of the departed, from small imperfections that remain and to assure his entrance into Paradise.
The Syrians do not believe in praying for a man who died unrepentant, in gross sins. Prayers are not offered for a person who dies unpardoned in excommunication from the Church. They do not pray for a man who committed suicide as he has lost hope. But they pray for a person who is hanged or murdered or drowned by accident.
The Baptism and Holy Chrism one receives as well as one's guardian angel are supposed to guard the soul of the departed one from the seizure of evil spirits. Special prayers are said to save the departed one from the invisible hosts hiding in the air.
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