Posted by: jamesthethickheaded | October 23, 2012

Akathist for a Loved One Fallen Asleep

Sunday, Carol pushed me toward the “Akathist to Jesus Christ – For a Loved One who has Fallen Asleep”. Our bookstore had a copy published by St. Paisius Orthodox Monastery in Arizona, which is translated from the Russian by Elizabeth Purdy. The introduction by Protopriest Milos M. Vesin is very good. As he puts it, “The Orthodox Church is the Church of the resurrection, the Church of joy and the Church of love; and because of these three most important elements of Orthodoxy we cannot but openly, lovingly and faithfully embrace this which faces every one of us – namely, the question of our dying and death.” He then adds, “The Akathist… should be used both as an act of love toward those whom we have loved and who have fallen asleep, as well as an effective spiritual “therapy” for those of us who remain, so as not to fall into the grief or sorrow that might lead to despondency.” 

And so with my prayers thismorning and yesterday, I’ve now said this twice. Not exactly a ton of experience, but a start. Unfortunately, a close friend and Reader from St. Gregory’s (with whom I acolyted for years) lost his mother yesterday. And so I added her name to Dad’s. This renders the prayers “him/her” as “theirs”, and the names when given as “James and Barbara”… which happen as well to be the names of both my wife and I. And I hadn’t thought of that in advance, nor intended the sense it gives of time – as though praying one’s own Akathist at the same time as praying for another… as though… well, you get the idea. Oddly, very Orthodox in a way, but otherwise a paradox of sorts.

And the heart is pierced in the Ikos 7 where the prayer continues:

“When the fate of the departed fades into oblivion, when his(her) image dims in the heart, and time obliterates, along with his(her) tomb, the fervency of prayer for him(her), then do Thou not abandon him(her) but give delight to his(her) lonely soul…”

Yes, this is a fear… we now know and acknowledge. And so the prayer answers that Jesus’s love will never cease, is inexhaustible, and washes away our sins… and through the intercessions of all Thy Saints, “grant him(her) the grace of prayer for the living”, and grant as well that we may accept these intercessions in our own trials. And that’s an unexpected (?) transition… very consistent with the experience these last few weeks of transition continuing here and in heaven – at all ends of creation and for all of us – the living and departed. And as the Akathist continues, it transitions to where we have vanished, and the permanence of Holy Eternity endures; a place where our continuance is ended – an oddity to our present vision and experience of life; and the continuance of our departed becomes our own.

And so as it offers in Ikos 11, “At Thy breath flowers come to life, the river Nile is resurrected and a multitude of tiny creatures awakens. Thy glance is brighter than the spring sky; and Thy love, O Jesus, is warmer than the rays of the sun. Thou didst raise our mortal human flesh from the dust of the earth unto the blossoming of the eternal spring of incorruptible life. Do Thou then illumine also Thy servant (Name) with the light of Thy mercy.”

“Vouchsafe Thy servant(s) (Name) the sweetness of Paradise!… Alleluia!”

And while I think this is helpful in working out some of my grief, emotions, baggage, fears…. whatever… I’m not sure the usage of both names doesn’t blunt the impact. Felt I had to include Barbara… but may not continue with that as I think the impact must be greater in singles… at least at our end of the pipe. In either case, I am glad for having had the opportunity to pray this, and recommend it to your use.


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