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"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." Rev. 3: 20

Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch + Archdiocese of the Western USA

The Departed:




The Syrian Orthodox Church has designated the first Sunday preceding the start of the great Lent (Wedding of Cana Sunday) for commemorating all faithful departed.  The churches held prayers for them, and offer the Holy Divine Liturgy on their behalf asking God to forgive their shortcomings. Since the Lord is of living people “And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living” (Mark 12:26,27).  On this basis the following points are made:


Prayer for the Departed

If praying for the living is helpful, so must be for the dead too, because the spirits of the dead are alive and with the hand of the living God. Otherwise, if the human spirit dies, religion becomes meaningless, and because the spirit of the dead humankind is alive, so St. Paul prayed for the departed Onesiphorus so that God may grant him mercy “May the Lord grand mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me….May the Lord grand him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day” (2 Tim 1:16-18).  


The Church remembers the Departed in the Divine Liturgy

After His death on the Cross, our Lord Jesus Christ went to the world of the dead, and He took the spirits of the good to Paradise as He promised the thief.  For this reason, the Syrian Orthodox Church mentions her departed ones in her canonical prayers, and in the Holy Eucharist, which is capable of granting pardon to the departed ones.  For if the sacrifice on the cross, that is the death of Jesus on the cross was capable of granting pardon to the living and the dead, so also must be the Holy Eucharist which is an extension and continuation to the sacrifice on the cross, for it symbolize it.   


Can the sin of the departed one be forgiven?

According to John the Apostle, by prayers and oblation that be offered on their behalf, small sins that are not worthy of death can be forgiven.  This we read in the Epistle of St. John “If any man sees his brother commit a sin which is not worthy of death, let him ask and life will be granted to him, if he has not committed a sin worthy of death.  There is a sin worthy of death; I do not say that anyone shall pray for it” (I John 5:16).  The sins that are not worthy of death called incomplete sins, such as: unintentionally committed sins, sins of desire and passion and sins committed as a result of ignorance.


The Church does not pray for those who have died in their sin, such for drug smugglers who die in gun fights with Police or in fights among themselves, and also for robbers and thieves who are shot dead, those who take their own lives (commit suicide), and those who denounce their faith, or heretics.  Therefore, if the Church knows and confirms for sure that somebody died in suicide, she will not pray upon him.  In all other cases the Church will pray for the departed, and grant them absolution leaving them to the mercy of God who knows the innermost.


The Church prays for the departed for reasons of mercy.  It is an expression of love towards the dead, and leaves the rest in the hands of God. For God is the giver of life, and in His hand is the life of every living thing, and He alone takes a life, and at a time He decides. 


The death is described as:


A sleep.

Deuteronomy 31:16 And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them.


John 11:11 These things said he: and after that he said unto them, Our friend Lazarus slept; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.


The earthly house of this tabernacle being dissolved.

2 Corinthians 5:1 For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.


Putting off this tabernacle.

2 Peter 1:14 Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ has showed me.


God requiring the soul.

Luke 12:20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?


Going the way whence there is no return.

Job 16:22 When a few years are come, then I shall go the way whence I shall not return.


Gathering to our people.

Genesis 49:33 And when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.


Going down into silence.

Psalms 115:17 The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence.


Yielding up the ghost.

Acts 5:10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.


Returning to dust.

Genesis 3:19 In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, till you return unto the ground; for out of it was you taken: for dust you are, and unto dust shall you return.


Psalms 104:29 Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.


Being cut down.

Job 14:2 He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.


Fleeing as a shadow.

Job 14:2 He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.



Philippians 1:23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:


The Spiritual death:

Alienation from God is.

Ephesians 4:18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:


Carnal-mindedness is.

Romans 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.


Walking in trespasses and sins is.

Ephesians 2:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in


trespasses and sins;

Colossians 2:13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;


Spiritual ignorance is.

Isaiah 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.


Matthew 4:16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.


Luke 1:79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.


Ephesians 4:18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:


Unbelief is.

John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.


1 John 5:12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.


Living in pleasure is.

1 Timothy 5:6 But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.


Hypocrisy is.

Revelation 3:1-2 And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.


Is a consequence of the fall.

Romans 5:15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.


Is the state of all men by nature.

Romans 6:13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

Romans 8:6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.


The fruits of, are dead works.

Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,


Hebrews 9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?


A call to arise from.

Ephesians 5:14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.

Deliverance from, is through Christ.


John 5:24-25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.


Saints are raised from.

Romans 6:13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.


Love of the brethren, a proof of being raised from.

1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.



Ezekiel 37:2-3 And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.

A Biblical Perspective

By Very. Rev. Dr. Kuriakose Chorepiscopa Moolayil

Why we remember the departed in our Prayers?

In the Christian tradition we remember the faithful departed in our liturgy, prayers, and on feast days. One Sunday is set apart to remember all our faithful departed. This Sunday is known in the Church Calendar as the Aaneede. We are to remember our parents, brethren and other beloved in our prayers and Holy Eucharist. What is the basic concept of the prayer for the departed? When we look into the text and content of all our prayers we can identify the following facts:

1. Prayer for the departed is based on the faith and conviction that we get from the model of our Lord Jesus Christ. Before the pre-Christian period there were no conclusive notions of where the souls of the faithful go after the bodily death. They believed that after bodily separation the soul ‘go to the fathers in peace’. It is the way of speaking about death during those times. This phrase may include the promise of life after death. (Gen. 25:8, 35:29, 49:33, 1Sam.12:33). 

2. Gen. 25:8 says, Abraham was ’gathered to his people’. This refers to the ‘burial’ and it also indicates to the life after death. About the burial of Moses Deut. 34:6 says that He (Lord) buried him, but ‘no one knows his grave’. Here we are told about Lord himself burying his beloved. Enoch is said to be with God and Elijah was taken to His presence. 

3. Generally speaking, the Old Testament fathers, saints and prophets had the assurance about heavenly bliss. In this line the faithful had a hope for the life after death but this was not an assurance like those who are living in the New Testament times.

Examples of the New Testament Assurances of Life after Death

Jesus Christ gave a new insight when He taught ‘everyone who believes in Him may have everlasting life.’ John 5:24. 

In Luke 9: 30 we see Moses and Elijah talking to our Lord about “which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem”. 

Again in Luke 23:43 Jesus said “assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise”.

In Matthew 22:30 our Lord says, “in resurrection, they are like the Angels of God in heaven.” And in verse 32 it is said, “God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, not the God of the dead, but of the living.” 

St. Paul confirms Cephas ‘seeing Him after He rose again on the third day according to the scriptures’ and Paul himself witnessed Him .He mentions about the twelve and other one hundred men seeing Him rose. 1Cor.15:4-6. St. Paul confirms in 1 Thes. 4:14 “For, if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so Him those who sleep in Jesus”.

Rev.7:9-17 gives another vivid picture of the state of the departed. A multitude of all nations who are washed in the blood of the lamb serve him day and night holding palm branches and wearing white robes. They are singing praises to our Lord and shall neither hunger nor thirst. 

What are we to understand from the above New Testament facts?

1. Our Lord is explaining the relation between the belief and the life eternal in the above quote from John. Adam and Eve were created without the taste of death till they were in fellowship with God. They were not even having a thought of the mortality of the creation. They had very fixed and unwavering faith and belief in God. When this belief in God was shattered by the Satanic influences their quality of life changed from immortality to mortality or they had to face the taste of death. Here it is very explicit that the death is the death of the spiritual relations and companionship with God. They were expelled from this God fellowship or Paradise. Paradise is the place of harmony and solace. Human beings lost this state and fell into death because of the lack of faith and belief in God’s guidance. 

2. Jesus is promising here to go back to the state of belief and confidence in God and to enjoy the everlasting life. Jesus himself shows us the way to go back to the old state of immortality by believing in Him (GOD) who sent His son to us. He showed us a way of perfect obedience to God and opened us the path to eternal life. He himself became very human, believed in Him (God the Father), suffered a lot, died, buried and rose again to show that life continues even after bodily death. He showed the communion of the dead with the living by showing himself to the believing and faithful company of the disciples. Thus Jesus says that the believing faithful shall enjoy everlasting life or there is life after death. 

3. The quote above from Luke 9 is the incident of the transfiguration of our Lord. There the situation is important because of the presence of two Old Testament figures. Moses was there who was dead and was buried. Elijah was taken to heaven. We don’t know the corporeal changes, if any, that might have happened to the earthly body of Elijah. We must leave that to the providence of God. But with the New Testament understanding, we can assume that there must have been ‘a change’ as St. Paul says in 1Cor.15:52, ‘the corruptible put on incorruption’. Both Moses and Elijah were representatives of mortal humans who were dead in body and were taken to God’s presence, centuries before the birth of Christ. The subject matter of the discussion there is also very important to our theme. They were talking about ‘the things to happen in Jerusalem’. Moses and Elijah discussed with our Lord about the redemptive acts. See the privileges of the departed saints who stay in the presence of our Lord! Not only the faithful departed are with our Lord but are also privileged to discourse with HIM.

4. The Promise that was given to the believed thief is a pointer to the mercy and love that our Lord shows to the true penitent and the confessor. Here the confessed thief was promised the entry to paradise just at the time of his death. His belief was rewarded at the eleventh hour. The thief who confessed is the representative of all the human beings who are sinful by nature but at the same time has the opportunity to believe in the pardoning love of God and the open willingness to accept Jesus as the Savior. Any human being who is willing to confess with a contrite heart and is willing to confess the faith in Lord Jesus Christ will be rewarded this fellowship with Lord in Paradise after his/her death. The promise here is, ‘today you will be with Me in Paradise. The word today used here is the reference to eternity. The eternity with God is an unending today. This also refers to the fact that the faithful soul is taken to paradise immediately after his/her bodily separation. The state of the souls of Moses, Elijah and the thief points to this fact that they are with Christ, the Lord in Paradise. This is the greatest promise that a Christian can wish for and achieve.

5. The Matthew verse, 22:30 quoted above shows that the departed are like angels in heaven. The Angels are seen always in the presence of the Almighty. This also confirms the state of the departed. Again it is said that ‘God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and of Jacob, the God of the living’ (Matt.22:32). Here it is shown that the OT Patriarchs are the living Fathers, they are not dead even after their bodily separation. Anyone following them in their paths of belief and trusts in God shall also inherit this blessing. 

6. The resurrection of the dead is the basic faith of Christianity. The life after death is the assurance of the Lord. Jesus himself is the model and assurance. By the death and resurrection of Jesus the shadows of the promise about ‘the life after death’ in the Old Testament times is made a clear reality. The resurrection of Jesus is the experience and the witness of the New Testament church. St. Paul himself witness to this by sharing Peter’s experience as well as his own along with the twelve. He continues the assurance that, “those who sleep in Jesus” shall also be raised by God.

Finally, Revelation 7:9-19 vividly clarifies that those who were baptized in the blood of Jesus are incessantly raising praises and glories to the Lord. The life with the Lord in Paradise is the bliss shared with the fellowship of the Church invisible. 

Praying for the Departed 

Why do we pray for the dead? Prayer is basically a dedication and communion with God. We pray in the fellowship of love. Prayer is also the expression of our faith and belief. It is an occasion to remember with thanks those who are indebted to us in spirit and body. We continue our prayers till the bond of love to them is strong within us. We are praying for the dead loved ones with the full hope that they are in Paradise and that they are in fellowship with our Lord. Prayer is also the communion of saints: the living and those in Paradise. Holy Eucharist is the ultimate expression of our faith, belief, fellowship, communion and the real enactment of the incarnation and redemptive work of our Lord. Remembering our departed in the Holy Eucharist makes us and them part of this supreme sacrament. 

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4. Priesthood 

5. Repentance 

6. Matrimony

7. Anointing the Sick

Church Rites

Palm Sunday
Nahiré or Wa'déh dalmino
Foot Washing


The Church & Bible
Presentation of the Lord in the Temple
February 2nd
The Great Lent in the view of Bar 'Ebroyo
Prayer & Fasting
The Medical Aspects of Fasting
Fast of Nineveh
Lord feeds five thousand
The Departed
Brethren of the Lord




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