THE LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST: Eucharistic Prayer III (9)

After asking for the intercession of our brothers and sisters in Heaven, and interceding so that those scattered throughout the world may also be united one day and celebrating the Heavenly liturgy with us, our thoughts and prayers turn to our brothers and sisters who’ve left this world but are still being purified before entering into Heaven.

“To our departed brothers and sisters and to all who were pleasing to you at their passing from this life, give kind admittance to your kingdom. There we hope to enjoy for ever the fullness of your glory…”

In our intercession for the dead we don’t put limits on who can benefit from our prayers. Believers and non-believers will all face the Divine Judge, but that Judge is also Savior. We can only see appearances, but he sees hearts and truly knows those who merit eternal life.

The moment of death is a moment of grace and of mercy. If there’s even a strand of communion with others and with God that’s enough for us to help pull that soul out of perdition by expressing and using our communion with him or her to intercede to the Father alongside the Son.

Just as the Church celebrates All Saints day every year to rejoice in the saints in Heaven, the Church celebrates All Souls Day with that hope and impetus that our prayers benefit the dead who’ve not yet reached Heaven. The souls in Purgatory are being purified and making amends for the temporal effects of their sins during their earthly life; they’re forgiven, but there’s still something that needs purification in them in order to reach Heaven, like household chores left unfinished. When the chores aren’t done around the house, forgiveness is one thing, but the “trash” still has to be taken out by someone.

Maybe we just caused a little of that trash, but taking it out helps the whole family. We do it for the good of the whole family. So when we don’t, the whole family suffers. God has a plan for each one of us, and he has big expectations: he expects all of us to be and become saints. We do that by helping him take care of family business: by loving him and loving our neighbor. In short, we help him by doing whatever “chores” he gives us out of love. Through our intercession we help that souls in purgatory take out his or her trash.

God expects more from us than just doing what it takes to get ourselves in Heaven, because that is easy if we do whatever he tells us. God expects us to help take care of family business. Whatever we do for love of God benefits us, but it also benefits others, because God blesses us, and blesses certain people whom he has entrusted to our prayers. So we don’t pray just for ourselves, we also pray for others, living and dead.

“There we hope to enjoy for ever the fullness of your glory, when you will wipe away every tear from our eyes. For seeing you, our God, as you are, we shall be like you for all the ages and praise you without end…”

In every celebration of the Eucharist we make intercession for the dead, but Eucharistic Prayer III also has a beautiful prayer added in Masses for Dead that not only offers consolation to the departed’s loved ones, but also inspires us to work and pray not just for ourselves, but for those souls in need of grace, because what we wish for them and for us is truly and profoundly beautiful:

An appreciation and delight in the glory of God. St. Irenaeus taught that God’s glory is a man truly alive (Gloria Dei vivens homo). Not subjugation or domination, but man truly living a worthy life. In Heaven there’ll be no greater degree of fulfillment possible, and God will delight in it as well, a proud Father.

Every tear from our eyes wiped away. We hope for the salvation of our departed brothers and sisters, but on this earth that hope is always tinged with sadness over the separation we must experience until we’re reunited one day in Heaven. The founder of Aid to the Church in Need, Werenfried van Straaten, described his mission as “drying God’s tears.” We weep at sin, death, and suffering, and Our Lord experienced all that on the Cross, but, like him, in Heaven no one will ever shed tears again, an image taken from the Book of Revelation: “He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3–4).

Seeing God as he is. St. Paul in one of his letters said that, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood” (1 Corinthians 13:12). There’ll be no more doubt about who God is and who we are, since Christ reveals man to himself (see Gaudium et Spes, 22). Not only will we understand fully, but we will consider ourselves fully understood.

Being like God. St. Paul speaks of seeing God face to face, but it is St. John who truly inspires this part of the prayer, “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). When God created man he desired to create him in his own image and likeness (see Genesis 1:26); he wants us to be the spitting image of him. His Incarnation has shown us a human pattern of life to imitate, the true pattern of humanity, but until we see him face to face we won’t truly and completely fathom that resemblance.

Holiness is an imitation of Christ, and that goal requires action. St. John quickly adds that “…every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). Purity is how we imitate Christ, and how we will achieve our true goal: communion with Gods and others in Heaven. Bolstered by this hope, we purify ourselves and intercede into order to help the souls in Purgatory be purified as well.

Leave a Reply

Want more?

Sign up for the weekly email and access to member-only content