One of the spiritual works of mercy is to “pray for the living and the dead.” We usually remember that we should pray for the living, because they are around us, seen by us, and their needs are often apparent to our eyes. But do we remember to pray for the dead, for the souls being purified by God’s merciful grace in purgatory?
Here is an ancient hymn, translated from the Syriac (one of the ancient languages used in the early Church in Antioch, Damascus, Edessa, and other centers of Christianity in the first centuries of the Church). It is sung by the priest and the congregation in the Maronite Catholic Church on their Commemoration of the Faithful Departed:
Lord, listen to our voices, hear the prayers we raise, and open wide your gates above, we ask of you. Grant rest to our departed ones who died in hope, our parents, loved ones, and the teachers of true faith.
Blot out their sins and failings from your books, O Lord, and bring them safely to your paradise on high. for those who asked us to remember them in prayer, forgive their sins and faults committed in your sight.
The dead who have departed from this world in faith were nourished by your living Body and your Blood. We pray that they may stand with those at your right hand, with your apostles Peter and Beloved John.
And when all nations stand before your mighty throne, we ask you not to judge us on our sins and faults. We raise our voices to adore the Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one true God.
May we grow in our devotion to praying for the Poor Souls, assisting them as they are being prepared to enter into the Beatific Vision, and may they, in turn, pray for us, that we may remain faithful to the grace of God and the promises of our baptism!