Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9-11 and Prayer for the Dead

Requiem illumination from the Walters Museum (more info)
On the Anniversary of 9-11, it seems appropriate to think of prayer for the dead.  Memorial Day and Armistice Day, much less All Souls Day, have lost their older connotations and cultural weight as days of remembrance.  If there is a day in the States on which we remember death, I think that this is it, however clouded and complicated that memory may be after almost 11 years of war.

The Office of the Dead, the Church's prayers for the departed, have increasingly fallen into disuse in the last two generations. For most of Christian history, people spent a good part of their life in prayer for the dead, knowing that succeeding generations would do the same for them. Today, this is a less certain proposition. It sometimes seems that we have become so enamored with the contemporary metaphor of being an "Easter people" that we forget that we are imperfect creatures in process for whom Christ died.

For the faithful soul, attaining the beatific vision of God is the greatest of all joys and we should be mindful that the prayers of the righteous in heaven, most of whom are known to God alone, assist us in the here and now as they will in the hereafter during our own time of purification. In the same way, the prayers of the living helped many of those who now see God over the threshold and into the ranks of the blessed.

If you are still reading something this hopelessly retrograde for the year 2012, I would encourage you to remember the prayers for the souls in purgatory that were traditionally offered on Mondays. Pray them for those who have gone before as those who come after will pray them for you. Remember that as Christians we believe these are not nostalgic acts for ourselves, but therapeutic interventions done on behalf of others.

Office of the Dead, Bethune Manuscript (more info).
Antiphon. I am the Resurrection and the Life. He that believeth in Me, even though he die, shall live; and every one that liveth and believeth in Me shall not die forever.

V. I heard a voice from heaven saying to me.

R. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.

Let us pray:

O God the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, give unto the souls of Thy servants and handmaids the remission of all their sins, that through pious supplication they may obtain the pardon they have ever wished for. Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, forever and ever. Amen.
This prayer may be added, which traditionally carried an indulgence of 300 days for the souls in purgatory for each time it was said:
Lord, give unto them eternal rest, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.