We often see the relatives of the deceased spending large sums of money on luxurious monuments and other such attributes in their desire to hold an elegant funeral and arrange the grave as richly as possible. Wreaths and flowers are also items of significant expenses undertaken by family and friends, while the flowers cannot even remain in the coffin after it is closed since they accelerate the decay of the body. Some people wish to express their respect to the deceased and their sympathy to the relatives by means of newspaper announcements. Choosing that method they are revealing their feelings’ shallowness, and sometimes even deceitfulness, since a sincerely grieving person will not flaunt his grief knowing that he can always express his sympathy with much more warmth by doing it personally.
Ultimately, none of that splendour will benefit the deceived in any way. It makes no difference for a dead body if it lies in a poor or a rich coffin, a luxurious grave or a modest one. It cannot sense the smell of the flowers that we brought; neither does it need feigned expressions of sorrow. The body decays while the soul lives, no longer experiencing the sensations perceived through bodily organs. It is entering a different life and its necessities are now also different.
It is those completely different honours that we should bestow on the deceased if we really love him and wish to bring him our gifts.
What exactly are these gifts bringing joy to the soul of the deceased?
These are, first of all, sincere prayers for him, both personal or domestic and, most importantly, church prayers, combined with the Bloodless Sacrifice, i.e. commemoration at the liturgy. Many appearances of the dead and other visions confirm the tremendous benefits that the departed receive from prayer as well as the Bloodless Sacrifice offered for them.
Another thing that brings great joy to the souls of the departed is charity done on their behalf. Nourishing the hungry or helping the indigent in the name of the reposed is the same as doing it to him directly.
The Venerable Athanasia (Comm. 12 April) before her death instructed the sisters of her monastery to commemorate her by feeding the poor for forty days. However, the sisters by their negligence did so for nine days only. Then the saint appeared to them with two angels and said: “Why did you forget my will? Know that alms and prayers of the church offered for the soul during the first forty days after its repose propitiate God. If the soul of the departed is guilty of sins, then the Lord will grant it remission; if it is righteous, then those praying for it will be rewarded with blessings.”
Spending money on useless objects and deeds is especially preposterous in today’s difficult situation, when, if we spent it on the poor, we could commit an act of grace both to the deceased himself and to those who will actually be helped.
The resent charity dinner organized with voluntary donations on the Bishops’ Church grounds to commemorate nun Marina’s death anniversary according to her will attracted about 150 people who saw the announcement and all of whom were fed. That was a great deed!
But even if we cannot do anything on that scale and simply feed at least a few or even one hungry person, it would be a great asset already. Notably, we could easily do that by contributing a certain amount in commemoration of a deceased person to the Bishops’ Church Committee to Aid the Poor, or to the House of Mercy, or to the Public Dining Room. The food will be given to the poor with prayers for the reposed. The former will be satisfied bodily, while the latter will be nourished spiritually.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds