Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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How can one cope with the death of their beloved ones? Why should we pray for the sick; if they are going to die anyway?

The loss of a loved one is among the sorest griefs of this mortal life. We are asked by God to love those whom He has given us to us, and therefore when those beloved persons are withdrawn by death, our tender feelings are wounded. It is not sinful for us to lament the departure of friends; for the Lord Jesus Christ wept over Lazarusí death (Jn 11:35). Another example of a person cherished and lamented is St. Stephen who was so full of the Holy Spirit, and so bold for the faith. Devout men carried him to his burial, and made great lamentation over him (Acts 8:2). Dorcas was wept for and bewailed because of her practical care for the poor (Acts 9:36-41). It would be unnatural and inhuman if we did not mourn for the departed. The better the person, the greater is our regret at his or her loss. This should not be the case. Instead, his goodness should be a source of consolation.

We should not be torn between our love for the departed and our wish for a better place for them. When we need comfort, let us seek it where it may be found. Let us pray that we may view this source of grief, not with our natural, but with our spiritual eyes. In this earthly life, man is the heir of plenty of sorrows; but there is an inward, spiritual life, which God has given to believers and which provides consolation.

What happens to our beloved ones who have departed? Now notice that we say 'who has departed' and not 'who died' because God tells us ďĎI am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Mt 22:32). In the Church, during the evening vespers, we pray for the departed and we say "the souls of Your servants who have fallen asleep". Also we say "For there is no death for Your servants, but a departure" So we know that they are now living in a better place.

Now let us reflect on the prayer for the departed and see what it says about this better place. We ask the Lord to repose all their souls:
  1. In the bosom of our holy fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: We hear about the bosom of Abraham in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. Notice the honor given to his soul, by this convoy of angels taking it to its rest.

    1. His soul exists in a state of separation from the body. It did not die, or fall asleep, with the body; his candle has not been put out. The soul is alive and aware of all that happens and has happened around with him; but lives, and acted, and knew what it did, and what was done to it.

    2. His soul removed to another world, to the spiritual realm; it has returned to God who ushered it into its native country. The spirit of a human being goes upward.

    3. His soul is comforted after all the hardships, sufferings and turmoil of the earthly life (Lk 16:25).

  2. Sustain them in a green pasture by the water of rest: If during our life on earth we say with David the Psalmist "He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters" (Ps 23:2). We receive support and comfort in this life from God's good hands, our daily bread comes from Him as our Father. If that is the case during our transient life on earth, you can imagine what provision there is in those green pastures in paradise. God provides for His people when they are thirsty and weary. The water of rest is the consolation of God; and the joy of the Holy Spirit is our reward in Paradise.

  3. In the paradise of joy, the place out of which grief, sorrow and groaning have fled away. After all the suffering we endure on earth, be it sickness, persecution, etc. we are promised a place with no grief, no pain, no suffering.

  4. In the light of Your saints. God asked each one of us to "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Mt 5:16). The saints are those who kept this commandment on earth. Their light shone on earth and made a difference in the lives of the people around them. Imagine being in a place where you would be surrounded by such saints, isnít it something to be looking forward to.

    The 'Prayer for the departed' continues by asking the Lord to raise their bodies on the final judgment day.

    St. Paul made it clear when he said wishfully, "having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better" (Phil 1:23). We know that one day or other the Lord will call us to the home destined for all those on earth. If we cannot bear the thought of departing from our beloved, we need to attain a higher level of grace and firmer faith to be able to admit that to depart and be with Christ is better than to abide in the flesh.
Regarding praying for the sick, we see in the Holy Bible that God did not respond with healing to every one who had asked for it. St. Paul himself, who pleaded with the Lord to heal him from his illness, was not granted his wish; rather God said to him "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor 12:7-9).

St. Paul left Trophimus sick at Miletum (2 Tim 4:20). This incident shows that it is the will of God that some good people be in ill health. Whatever the sickness which affected Trophimus may have been, St. Paul could certainly have healed him if it were the Holy Spiritís wish. Prior to that he had raised Eutychus from death, and had caused the cripple at Lystra to walk. But with regard to Trophimu, it was not Godís desire that Paul use the gift of healing to cure Trophimu. The good fruit-bearing vine must be pruned, and Trophimus must suffer: there were ends to be met by his frailty which could not be compassed by his health. Instantaneous restoration could have been given, but it was withheld under divine direction.
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