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Praying for the Saints

calledtoholinessAs we conclude this Hallowmastide Triduum, a time when we’ve prayed with and for the dead, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the Communion of Saints, and the tripartite Church.

The earthly Church – called the Church Militant, is connected with two other assemblies: the Church Triumphant, and the Church Suffering. We on earth are Militant because we struggle against the evils of the archons in the world. The Church Triumphant consists of the liberated spirits in the Fullness (Pleroma), those blessed souls traditionally referred to as saints. Finally, the Church Suffering is made up of those souls and spirits who are neither in earthly embodiment, nor in the freedom of the Fullness, but in the purgatorial immaterial realms. Joined together, these three assemblies make up what is known as the Communion of Saints.

Today being All Souls’ Day, we devote the holy day particularly to praying for the dead. Yesterday, of course, we honored all the saints, both known and unknown. It occurred to me that while we often talk about praying to the saints – which in practice is really praying with the saints – we never talk much about praying for the saints.

This may strike some as strange – perhaps even wrong: praying for the saints. Why would saints need our prayers? As I often say, prayer is not bound by space and time. God applies our prayers exactly when and where they are needed. And so if we remember this, praying for the saints seems just as appropriate as praying for the dead – especially when you consider that some of the dead we may have prayed for today could actually be unrecognized saints who are not publicly known or venerated by the Church Militant.

By praying for the saints, our prayers may be strengthening the martyr 500 years ago, as he’s marched to his death for his faith. They may be providing grace to the young 3rd century consecrated virgin, whose pagan father wished to marry off for political and/or financial reasons. They may be offering courage the saint who, centuries ago, struggled with his faith or experienced a “dark night of the soul”. We never know how our prayers are used, but as three parts of One Church, we should all do our best to pray for each other. This is why, in my tradition, we hold annual Requiem Masses for the Holy Cathar Martyrs, as well as for the Holy Templar Martyrs. We pray for them, not only in whatever state of existence they may be in now, but also for their final moments of earthly life.

Hallowmastide, my favorite time of year, is perhaps the best time to emphasize the reality of the Communion of Saints. We are all part of the same Church – interior, invisible, secret, and universal; one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. It is important to pray for the departed, no matter who they are; and it is particularly important that just as we ask the saints to pray for us, we also have the piety and love to pray for them.

Blessed All Souls’ Day everyone!

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Hallowtide Triduum: Hallowe’en is Not the Devil’s Birthday

Evelyn_De_Morgan_-_Angel_of_DeathHallowtide is right around the corner, commencing with Hallowe’en on Saturday, All Saints’ Day on Sunday, and All Souls’ Day on Monday! As such, let’s take a look at the Hallowmas Triduum, beginning with the ever popular (and rather spooky) Hallowe’en.

Nowadays, many Christians (mainly of the fundamentalist/evangelical variety) view Hallowe’en as a satanic or pagan holiday, and encourage “Real True Christians” to avoid it altogether. And while it’s true that many of the secular customs associated with the holiday are rooted in European pagan and folk traditions, the truth is that Hallowe’en is just as firmly rooted in pious Christian tradition as any other holy day.

Hallowe’en” of course comes from “All Hallows’ Even” or “Eve”, which eventually got shortened to Hallow E’en. It is the eve of All Hallows’ Day, commencing at Vespers on the evening of October 31st. “Hallow” is an archaic English word meaning “holy” or “saint”, therefore it may also be called All Saints’ Eve. According to tradition, a day actually begins at sunset prior to the day we would recognize on the calendar. Major Holy Days (and Sundays) are assigned two Vespers offices — so, for example, Vespers I for Assumption Day would be prayed around sunset on August 14th, and Vespers II would be prayed at sunset on the 15th: both beginning and concluding the Holy Day. In the case of Hallowe’en, Christians would gather to pray in honor of the Saints, particularly for those who were not known or publically venerated by the Church with their own individual feast day. Prayers and Masses would continue into the next day, and even today, the Catholic Church recognizes the Solemnity of All Saints as a Holy Day of Obligation.

You might ask, how did All Saints’ Day end up on November 1? It was originally celebrated in honor of all the holy martyrs, known and unknown, on May 13. On this day, in 609 or 610 AD, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon of Rome to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all martyrs, and ordered an anniversary of the dedication. All Saints Day was eventually moved to November 1 during the reign of Pope Gregory III (731-741) to celebrate the foundation of the an oratory of St. Peter’s for the relics “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs, confessors, or all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world”, and the May 13th date feast suppressed.

This happened to fall on the Celtic holiday of Samhain (pronounced Sow-en), which had a similar theme to the Roman festival of Lemuria (when restless spirits were propitiated and the dead were honored), but the Celtic holiday was also a harvest festival. Even after conversion to Christianity, the Celtic customs remained popular. The belief that the dead could return on this night to haunt the living lead to the practice of carving jack-o-lanterns (originally out of turnips) and wearing costumes to trick the spirits into leaving the living alone. But the practice of praying still continued, both in Church and in the streets, and this is where the origin of trick-or-treating originated.

Christians would bake soul cakes in honor of the dead in Britain and Ireland throughout the Middle Ages, usually filled with allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, raisins, or currants. Before baking, these were marked with the sign of the cross to signify that they were alms. Children, widows, and beggars would go out “soulling”, that is ritually begging for cakes door to door, and reciting prayers for the dead. Each cake given represented a prayer.

All these traditions were brought over to America by Irish immigrants, and thus Hallowe’en became a popular holiday in the U.S.

In traditions that do not recognize the Saints, All Saints’ Day is generally ignored. If it is celebrated, it often celebrates all Christians — the living and the dead. These traditions also generally do not believe the praying for the dead is efficaceous, and therefore the following Holy Day dedicated to All Souls gets tossed out.

While All Saints’ Day and its Eve are dedicated to all the saints, both known and unknown, All Souls’ Day on November 2nd is focused on praying for the departed. We pray for the repose of our loved ones: the friends, family, mentors, and clergy who have passed on but are never forgotten. We also pray for those forgotten souls who have no one to pray for them. We visit cemeteries, leaving flowers and candles; and, hopefully, we remember our own mortality so that we can make the best of our lives here on earth.

Yes, I personally love all things spooky, and it’s fun to dress up for Hallowe’en. But for me, and many Christians Gnostic or otherwise, this three-day period is an important triduum in which we the Church Militant have the opportunity to pray with and for the Church Triumphant and the Church Suffering. As I always like to say, prayer is not limited by space and time, and the prayers we say today may be assisting a martyr as they’re lead to their death centuries in the past, or aiding someone on their death bed who has no one to be with them as they depart from this world and on to the next. We may not know how God chooses to apply our prayers, but we can be confident that through His mercy, our prayers are always effacaceous!

At this Hallowmas Triduum, I’d ask you to do four things: honor your patron saint or saints; honor in particular all the unknown saints; pray for your departed loved ones; and most importantly, say a prayer for all the forgotten souls who have no one to pray for them. You may use the following prayer, or improvise your own:

O merciful God, take pity on those souls who have no particular friends and intercessors to recommend them to Thee, who, either through negligence or through length of time are forgotten by their friends and by all. Remember them, O Lord, and remember Thine own mercy, when others forget to appeal to it. Let not one soul ever be parted from Thee; may they find repose in the Eternal Fullness, and may light perpetual shine upon them. Amen.

(The artwork is “The Angel of Death” by Evelyn De Morgan)

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Gnostic Confraternity for All Departed Souls

Angel of DeathOn the Feast of Sts. Polyeuct & Nearchus (January 9, 2014), a new confraternity was established: the Gnostic Confraternity for All Departed Souls is established. Its intent is to offer prayers for the dead, and for fellow members of the Confraternity. If you would be interested in joining, please read through the following requirements and practices. You may e-mail me at the address given below, or feel free to send a message to the Gnostic Devotions Facebook page. Please include in your e-mail: Your name, preferred e-mail address, and intent to enroll and meet the membership obligations. Upon receipt of your request, you will be entered into the Confraternity registry, and will receive a printable PDF copy of the Confraternity manual, which contains the information below in a much nicer format.

Introduction

God is eternal, and because our true nature is divine, so are we. As the Divine is not limited to space and time, but permeates it while existing beyond it, prayer likewise has no such limit. Prayer is, after all, communication with the Divine.

We pray for the dead, often even saints, because prayer is not constrained by linear time or physical location. When we pray, we have no way of knowing how God will choose to apply our prayers, but we can be assured that our prayers for the dead will be applied when and where they are needed most.

A Requiem Mass said today for the Holy Cathars may, through the wisdom and love of God, be providing strength, encouragement, and comfort to a Cathar Parfait as he or she descends Montségur, walking to martyrdom. A prayer said today may provide the clarity of mind (and the nerve) St. Francis of Assisi needed to renounce his family’s lavish lifestyle and take a vow of poverty as a monastic, living in service to God and his fellow man. A prayer may be assisting someone who lived centuries ago in whatever state of existence they are currently in. We may never know the effects of our prayers, but in the Eternal Now, we know that they are effectual.

It is entirely possible that we ourselves are presently benefiting from prayers said for us 100 years from now! This is the timeless nature of prayer. To the Divine, with whom we share one nature at the very core of our being, it is always Now. There is no past, present or future in the earthly sense; but one Eternal Present – and though it is difficult to express such timeless realities due to the limited nature of language, this great mystery of Eternity is the means by which the Communion of Saints assists one another through prayers and intercessions.

It is with this in mind that the Gnostic Confraternity for All Departed Souls has been established, so that we may, through our prayers, assist those who have gone before us. Not only do members of the Confraternity assist departed souls, but they also assist one another on this æonial battlefield we call life on earth.

Members pledge to take up humble but effective daily, weekly, monthly and yearly practices, for the benefit of the departed, and their brothers and sisters of the Confraternity. All this to greater glory of God, and to the strengthening of the Communion of Saints: the Church Triumphant, Suffering, and Militant.

If you are interested in joining this holy endeavor, read through the following pages to learn more about the benefits and obligations of the Confraternity. You may also follow the spiritual practices given herein entirely on your own; but if you are so inclined, you may enroll in the Confraternity by contacting Br. Pier-Giorgio, OSE: brpier (at) gmail (dot) com.

It is assumed that members have a familiarity with Gnosticism, particularly in its modern ecclesial expressions; but for a convenient summary, including information on the Communion of Saints and the power of prayer, you are encouraged to read through The Gnostic Catechism* by +Stephan Hoeller.

*This Confraternity is not associated with the Ecclesia Gnostica in any official capacity.

Membership Requirements & Benefits

1. Membership in the Gnostic Confraternity for All Departed Souls is open to anyone who identifies as Gnostic, regardless of tradition. It is to be noted that this is a Christian Gnostic confraternity, and as such prayers and devotions will be of a Christian nature.

2. Official enrollment is handled by the Registrar of the Confraternity. A simple e-mail declaring one’s desire for membership is all that is required, and membership will be recorded in the official registry. Anyone who desires to enroll should contact the registrar with their full name, e-mail address, and statement of intention to enroll and meet the membership obligations: brpier (at) gmail (dot)com.

3. Once enrolled, the new member should begin practicing the obligations of the Confraternity, which are detailed in this book. Members can expect a monthly Eucharist to be offered for all their intentions (particularly for their deceased friends and relatives) by ordained Gnostic clergy.

4. Upon the death of a member of the Confraternity, a Gnostic Requiem Mass will be offered for their repose in the Fullness, provided that the Confraternity is notified of their passing via the Registrar.

5. One does not need to officially enroll in the Confraternity in order to participate in its charism, however enrollment is encouraged if one would like to receive the benefits of Masses and prayers offered for Confraternity members.

6. Membership in the Confraternity may be canceled at any time, simply by contacting the Registrar.

Membership Obligations

Members of the Gnostic Confraternity for All Departed Souls promise to meet the following obligations:

1. Each night before retiring, pray the Confraternity Prayer for all members and their departed loved ones, followed by a Pater Noster, Ave Sophia, and Requiem Æternam.

2. Once a week, preferably on a Monday, pray the Gnostic Rosary for the Dead. This is offered for all departed souls who have incarnated, in the knowledge that by our prayers, assistance will be offered where it is needed, throughout all time.

3. Pray the Office for Departed Souls once a month, preferably beginning the first Sunday evening at Vespers, and continuing through Monday morning with Matins and Lauds. Any member may, at their own discretion, pray another office for the dead from their own church’s liturgy, if such an office exists.

4. Every year on All Souls’ Day (November 2nd), or on its Eve, attend Mass and offer the celebration of the Holy Eucharist for all the souls of the departed, and specifically for the departed loved ones of Confraternity members. As the Mass will already be said in honor of all souls by default, on should privately declare one’s intentions through prayer before the Mass begins. Any valid Eucharist offered by a priest within the Apostolic Succession fulfills this obligation, however a Gnostic Eucharist is to be preferred by Confraternity members, if possible.

5. Upon the death of a member of the Confraternity, all members will pray the Office for Departed Souls for that member’s repose. This obligation should be fulfilled within 30 days of the time of death; or within 7 days, if the Confraternity was not notified before month’s mind.

Nightly Prayers Before Retiring

Confraternity Prayer

Remember them, O Lord, in Thy kingdom: the faithful souls whom we knew but see no longer. Grant them Thy peace; let the light above the æons shine upon them. Grant them we pray Thee, a place of refreshment, a blessed tranquility, and the splendor of Thy Gnosis.

O Eternal, who abidest ever outside the limitations of time, we beseech Thee to shed forth upon Thy faithful children on earth, in heaven, and in the netherworld, the bright beams of Thy light and supernal comfort. Bless the members of our spiritual Confraternity, our departed loved ones, and especially ________.
Grant that we who continually give thanks for their blessed memory may at length enter with them into Thine ineffable splendor, and attain to union with Thee, who wert, and art, and art to come. Amen.

Pater Noster

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Ave Sophia

Hail Sophia, filled with light, the Christ is with Thee. Blessed art Thou amongst the æons, and blessed is the liberator of Thy light, Jesus. Holy Sophia, Mother of all gods, pray to the Light for us Thy children, now and in the hour of our death. Amen.

Requiem Æternam

Repose in the eternal Fullness grant unto them, O Lord, and let the Light above the æons shine upon them. Amen.

The Gnostic Rosary for the Dead

See this link.

The Office for Departed Souls

This Office is not included on this page, but is contained in the Manual. It consists only of Vespers (Evening Prayer), Matins (Midnight/Early Morning Prayer), and Lauds (Morning Prayer). It is based on the Gradual Psalms, which are traditionally recited for the dead, and also includes readings from scripture along with other prayers.

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Gnostic Rosary for the Dead

This being the month of November, which is dedicated to the the dead, this slight variation of the traditional Rosary for the Dead is offered as a means of praying for the repose of the souls of those who have passed on from this world.  The traditional Rosary for the Dead is composed of a string of beads made up of four decades (in contrast to the 5-decade Rosary of Our Lady, with which most are familiar), in honor of the 40 hours that passed between the Crucifixion and Resurrection.  There are no mysteries to meditate upon, the focus of the prayers being on the souls of the dead.

In its oldest form, the beads to count the introductory prayers consisted of a cross or the medal of Our Lady of Suffrage, plus one bead between that medal and center piece.  In modern Rosaries for the Dead, the introductory beads often mirror the traditional Rosary: a cross, a large bead, three smaller beads, and a second large bead.  Depending upon the particular set of beads used, these introductory prayers are slightly modified.  One can, of course, use a regular 5-decade Rosary to count the prayers, and conclude after the fourth decade is complete.

Here then, is the Gnostic Rosary for the Dead:

1.  On the cross, make the Sign of the Cross, and pray:

Remember them, O Lord, in Thy kingdom, the faithful souls whom we knew but see no longer, especially (name those for whom you wish to pray). Grant them Thy peace; let the light above the Æons shine upon them; grant them we pray thee, a place of refreshment, a blessed tranquility, and the splendor of Thy Gnosis. O Eternal One, who abidest ever outside the limitations of time, we beseech Thee to shed forth upon Thy faithful children on earth, in heaven, and in the underworld, the bright beams of Thy light and supernal comfort. Amen.

2(a).  If the chaplet has only one bead between the cross and the loop of four decades, pray the Requiem prayer on that bead:

Repose in the eternal Fullness grant unto them (him/her), O Lord, and let the Light above the Æons shine upon them (him/her). May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

℣.  O Lord, hear my prayer;
℟.  And let my cry come unto Thee.

2(b).  If the chaplet has more than one bead after the cross, on the large beads pray the previous Requiem prayer, followed by Acts of Faith, Hope, and Love on the three smaller beads:

Act of Faith:

My God, I put my faith in Thee, because Thou art Truth itself.

Act of Hope:

My God, I hope in Thee, because Thou art infinitely good.

Act of Charity:

My God, I love Thee with all my heart, and above all things, because Thou art infinitely perfect; and I love my neighbor as myself, for the love of Thee.

3.  For each decade, pray on the large beads:

Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord; they rest from their labors, and their works live after them.

4.  On each of the smaller beads, pray either one of the following, being consistent throughout the Rosary:

Faithful Heart of Sophia, be my salvation.

-or-

O Light, Thou art my Savior and my Redeemer. (from the Pistis Sophia)

5.  Conclude each decade with the Requiem prayer:

℣.  Repose in the eternal Fullness grant unto them (him/her), O Lord;
℟.  And let the Light above the Æons shine upon them (him/her).
May they (he/she) rest in peace.

6.  After completing the fourth decade, conclude the Rosary with the De Profundis – Psalm 130 in the Hebrew Bible, Psalm 129 in the Septuagint – followed by the Sign of the Cross:

Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord; Lord, hear my voice.  Let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication.  If Thou, O Lord, shalt observe our iniquities, O Lord, who shall endure it?  For with Thee there is merciful forgiveness; and by reason of Thy law, I have waited for Thee, O Lord.  My soul hath relied on His word: my soul hath hoped in the Lord.  From the morning watch even until night, let Israel hope in the Lord.  Because with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him plentiful redemption.  And He shall redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

For the traditional Catholic Rosary for the Dead, based on the Pious Propaganda of the Rosary for the Dead by the Archconfraternity of Notre Dame du Suffrage, go here.

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