Praying to and for the Dead; Venerating Relics; Mary

While I was a Mennonite, I once creeped out my fellow-believers by feeling a need to pray for a Mennonite mutual acquaintance who had just died, a practice from my Catholic youth.

Orthodox don’t believe in Catholic purgatory, but we still pray for the dead because of Scripture and Tradition. Why to us is what we call a mystery – not blind faith, but less compulsion than Westerners to have everything logically explained to the last iota.

The Books of Maccabees were universally part of the Christian Bible until Martin Luther deleted them for Protestants. And in 2 Maccabees 12:38-46, Judas Maccabeus and his Jewish army pray for fallen comrades who they discovered carrying pagan amulets. In addition, there’s 1 Corinthians 15:29-30 where St. Paul alludes to baptism on behalf of the deceased. And early Christian writer Tertullian as early as A.D. 211 says the deceased were being remembered, prayed for, in Christian worship.

For further discussion, see this link, and scroll down to the answer to the questioner’s second question. The answer also discusses prayer TO the dead, including the recognized Saints (and Mary, the Mother of God or “Theotokos”).

As for venerating relics, I’m not sure I’m looking forward to my first Orthodox funeral where I may be expected to join others in kissing the deceased(!), but remember that many early Christians worshiped in catacombs and graveyards containing the relics of the faithful departed, maintaining ‘contact’ with them, so to speak, that way. And apparently Eastern Europeans don’t share the ‘modern’ Western aversion to contact with dead bodies! Furthermore, if the deceased had any share in God’s Divine Energies, that would include their bodies as well as their souls, and venerating them puts us in contact with those same Energies. And to this day Orthodox put Saints’ relics in their church altars.

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