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#75 Memory Eternal

Summary:

When people pass away, we pray that their memory will be eternal.  We're not simply asking God to think about them: we're asking Him to save them (and us) and bring us all into His Kingdom.  It's the Church's answer to the loneliness and emptiness of death.

Questions:

As you watch the episode, consider:

1. What does it mean to pray for someone's memory to be eternal? 

2. Death is a very harsh reality, and it is sad when one experiences the death of a loved one.  What about Christ's presence at the tomb of Lazarus is significant us when we mourn someone?

3. How does Christ raising Lazarus from the dead and His own Resurrection influence the way we as Orthodox Christians view death?  How, then, should we greet someone when they're mourning the death of a loved one?

4. How can the thief's prayer to Christ on the Cross serve as a model for our prayer life?

Check out these model lesson plans / retreat sessions for JOY and GOYA!

Links:

And here are some articles you may find to be helpful:

1. Bible Gateway, John 11:1-44

2. Bible Gateway, 1 Corinthians 15:14

3. Mystagogy, Why We Chant Memory Eternal

4. Ancient Faith Radio, Memory Eternal

Script:

Hey everybody this is Steve and God doesn't forget us.  When someone passes away, in the Orthodox tradition we pray that the person's memory will be eternal.  I've been praying this a lot recently because, last week, my grandmother passed away.  It's really hard thing to see someone who brought the world nothing but joy be overcome by pain.  To see someone who helped so many people be overcome by helplessness and illness.  It's difficult to watch someone in the process of dying, and then it's difficult in a different way once they're gone.  All that's left is a void.  This absence is one of the most jarring things about death.  At a funeral we can see a person's body but feel the absence of their soul.  And then after the funeral and burial, we feel the absence of that person even more.  I feel it every time I see my grandmother's favorite chair without her in it, every time I want to stop by her house to say hi and then realize she isn't there anymore. 

We have our memories, I guess, but they eventually fade over time.  And no matter how good our memories might be, they won't last forever.  They'll eventually die with us.  Standing at the foot of my grandmother's grave, seeing her casket slowly descend into the ground, I felt sad and angry and alone. 

Death is a lonely thing that pulls people from our lives and causes them to sink into the ultimate solitude, the loneliness of nothingness.  It s the opposite of communion, of the authentic and meaningful connection that brings us together, something that's only possible in true love, in Christ.  In fact, this true communion is the Church's response to death, and the reason we ask Christ to remember us in His Kingdom.  So it's a good thing that the love of Christ is far more powerful than death could ever be.

You see, looking at my grandmother's grave was terribly lonely, but when I looked up I realized that I was surrounded by friends and family, people who miss my grandmother as much as I do, people who were crying as hard as I was.  And then I remembered how Christ once stood at the tomb of his friend, Lazarus, and wept.  That passage, where Christ stands before the tomb of Lazarus, is one of the most interesting in the whole Bible.  He was there to raise Lazarus from the dead, Christ knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, that death was powerless before Him.  Yet He still wept. 

Death is such a senseless and absurd and isolating thing, something so contrary to the joy and communion of the Kingdom, that Christ Himself, God Himself, cried.  Which is comforting and awesome because, no matter how much we are hurting, Christ is with us.  No matter how alone we may feel, Christ is with us.  He didn't forget Lazarus, and He doesn’t forget us.  He stands with us outside the tomb, and cries with us, mourning death for the absurdity that it is.  But He also stands with us inside the tomb, because He died with us.  He died with us so we can rise with Him.  This is where the truth of the Gospel is really revealed: in the empty tomb of Christ.

If Christ was simply a good man or a wise teacher, He’d still be in the tomb.  But He's not, because He is our Savior.  Christ is both human and divine, the Lord, the Son of God Himself.  And since God is the source of life, death has no power over Christ.  This is so important because our Faith rests on the truth of the resurrection.  As St Paul says, "[I]f Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty." (1 Cor 15:14)  But we believe in a God that did not simply create us and then forget about us.  We believe in the one true God, who made us because He loves us, who watches over us because He loves, who does not forget us even in the midst of our most intense pain and suffering.  Who does not forget us even in death. 

Yet this isn't just memory like our memory, like the thoughts in our heads.  When the thief on the Cross asked Christ to remember Him in His Kingdom, he wasn't simply asking Christ to think about Him.  He was asking for Christ to reach down into the pain and hurt and suffering, to join him and then pull him out of it.  He was asking to be with Christ in His Kingdom.  This prayer, this request that God remember us in His Kingdom, that our memories be eternal, expresses something so beautiful about our relationship with God.  Yes, it's an expression of our pain and our loneliness, of the suffering and shock that death brings us.  But it's also an expression of hope, that God will not forget us, just like He didn't forget Lazarus or the thief on the Cross.  Hope that the loved ones we bury will literally rise again, that my grandmother's grave and every grave everywhere will one day be empty.  It's an expression of our humility, of the realization that there is no life apart from God; because, while we can think about the dead, we can't raise them.  And it's an expression of God's invitation to work with Him, as we ask Him to remember those who we're already remembering in prayer.  

So, I know we usually don't do this, but this week we have some homework for you: Take some time and think about all the people in your life: family, friends, even enemies.  Then take those names and put them in two columns: one for those who are still in this life, and one for those who have fallen asleep.  Keep that list, update it, and use it in your prayer.  Ask God to have mercy on the living, and to remember in His Kingdom those who have fallen asleep.  Ask others to pray for them as well.  You can even leave their names in a comment to this video, so your your fellow Bee-lievers can pray for them,just like I hope you'll remember my grandmother, Polixeni, in your prayers.  Then give a copy of that list to your priest, so he can offer those names every time he celebrates the Divine Liturgy. So all those people can be remembered in God's Kingdom, which we enter into and experience every Liturgy.

Because remember, when we pray for eternal memory, we aren't simply asking God to think about us.  We're asking God to save us, to not abandon us to the loneliness and oblivion of death, but instead, to bring us into the joy and communion and life of His Kingdom. 

So let's Be the Bee, and pray that everyone's memory will be eternal.  Be the Bee, and Live Orthodoxy.  Remember to like, subscribe, and share.  I'll see you all next week.

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