Monday, June 11, 2018

Questions and Answers 31 - 35


Suicide and Funerals

Question 31: I know that in the Orthodox Church, if mental illness can be proven, one who commits suicide can receive a funeral in the Church, however for others who commit suicide, it is prohibited. Can you explain why this is so?

Answer: Its actually very simple to understand, in light of the prayers and hymns of the funeral service. There we read how the one who is dead and being prayed for is set up as a model for the rest of the living in the Church. It is assumed they lived a virtuous life and died a righteous death in a way that is a model for the rest of us struggling Christians. Obviously the standards of what it is to be an Orthodox Christian today is very low and not everyone who receives a funeral is exactly the best model, but the Church certainly does not want to set up as a model one who commits suicide out of despair, since despair according to many Church Fathers is among the worst sins, and they offer a remedy on how to overcome it. Also, we should not think that those for whom a funeral is prohibited are going to hell and condemned forever. Funerals are not necessary for God to judge someone justly. A funeral is a gift from the Church that is supposed to be beneficial to the living as much if not more than to the dead. It is how the Church honors its saints and models for having victoriously lived a God-pleasing life, and now the Church can boast that their life proves the truth of the gospel. Some people, not only suicides, do not receive this public honor, but private prayers can still be said. To give a funeral to certain people who do not deserve this honor is believed to bring more harm than good, both to the living and to the one who is dead. Funerals are therefore for those whom the Church knows with surety that they died in good standing with what the Church teaches.


Praying When Your Exhausted

Question 32: Sometimes I am very tired at night and I just collapse in my bed without saying my normal prayers. I was wondering if you know of a prayer I could say in these instances, knowing of course not to make a habit of praying as I doze off to sleep?

Answer: Having had such moments myself, I can tell you basically what I say:

Glory to You, O God, glory to You.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

Most Holy Theotokos, save us.

Most Holy Theotokos, help me.

Most Holy Theotokos, cover us under your protection, and do not forsake us, who have placed our hope in you.

My hope is the Father, my refuge is the Son, my protection is the Holy Spirit.

Holy Trinity, glory to You.

Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.


Incense in the Early Church

Question 33: Why was incense not used in the early Church?

Answer: There are basically two reasons. First, in the early Church certain pagan rulers would force Christians to either sacrifice incense to an idol or be put to death. By associating incense with pagan worship, the early Church disassociated it from Christian practice in order to more readily reject offering incense to idols. Second, in the early Church the sensible worship of the Jews was largely condemned, since Jesus taught us to worship God "in spirit and in truth." Part of Old Testament worship consisted in offering God incense, and this fragrance was said to please God, but Christians believe that such things do not really please God, rather it is a virtuous life that pleases Him, just as many Prophets in the Old Testament would say. Therefore, to emphasize these things, incense was prohibited, until the time when peace came to the Church and became its own entity without having to reference any influence from Paganism or Judaism.


Must All Sins Be Confessed to a Priest

Question 34: Must I confess to a priest after I commit any sin?

Answer: If you live in a monastery under total obedience to an elder, I would say yes. However, if you are an average Christian living in the world, then usually no. It is only until recent centuries that confession was used to confess sins in some detail by laypeople. Typically confession was only used to help restore an individual back to the Church after committing a sin that would separate them from the Church. The three main sins that separated someone from the Church were heresy, murder and adultery. And confession was usually made publicly before the entire local church. Over the centuries these sins were expanded upon and confession became more private. I would say that the way you confess your sins really depends on your relationship with the cleric to whom you confess to. This relationship is very different for many people, and there is no blanket answer that applies to everyone. Talk to your confessor about it if it is troubling your conscience.


Those Who Decry the Sainthood of Certain Modern Saints

Question 35: I have read that many Orthodox do not consider St. Paisios the Athonite, St. Porphyrios, and St. Luke the Surgeon as saints or even Orthodox? Do you know why?

Answer: Those who say such things are usually schismatics that belong to so-called "Orthodox" groups that are not in communion with the Church, such as certain Old Calendarists or those who believe the Moscow Patriarchate was schismatic during the time of Soviet oppression. In their extremist zeal, unable to reconcile the fact that holiness indeed existed and still exists in the canonical Churches of the ancient Patriarchates after they separated from them, they are forced to reject the saints you mentioned because many of them believe grace does not exist outside of their own little group. I personally talked to one leader of such a group, and for over an hour he did nothing but bash all these saints because he could not reconcile their holiness with the teachings of his little schismatic group.


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