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Blessing of Graves

On Saturday, May 30th, Fr. William and the Faithful Parishoners of Sts. Peter and Paul went to church cemetery to bless the graves.  This was the last All-Souls Saturday Liturgy for the year, where we call to mind all the departed faithful who have gone to the Lord before us. It is an important tradition in the Orthodox Church to offer prayers to the departed. Instead of using my own words about the necessity of this, I will post an article explaining it.

Why Pray For the Dead?

By: Fr. Dn. Charles Joiner

When you die you will face what is known as the partial judgment. This will include a complete examination of your life.  With a good account you will be led by angels to a mystical place where we will anticipate the joys of Paradise awaiting the final judgment and your resurrection.  If you do not know God at this point and have not lead a life of repentance you will be controlled by the demons who will lead you to a place where you anticipate the torments of Hell or an eternal life separated from God.  
Elder Cleopa tells us this about those who are destined for eternal torments,
"If someone at the partial judgment is destined for eternal torments and is a Christian and servant of Christ, he has but one hope.  His hope is in the intercession of living Christians who are able to pray to Christ for him to be rescued from the torments of hell or at least to find some relief from them."
Paul tells us, "we must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad." (2 Cor 5:10)  but Elder Cleopa points out that Paul also said to Timothy, "I exhort therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men." (1 Tim 2:1)  Also James says, "Confess your sins to one another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16)

Elder Cleopa says,
Consequently, if our prayers are able to benefit the living for what reason are they powerless to benefit the dead, granted that they also live by their souls? God is everywhere present and hears both the prayers for the living and for the dead.
We can see in the Old Testament witness to prayers for the dead (2 Mac 12:442-45, Bar 3:4-5).  We also see in Holy Tradition and in the Divine Liturgy prayers for the dead.
 
Praying for the dead does not place our hope of salvation in the hands of humans. Those who are separated from God will not be saved, but those who have their hope additionally in the prayers of men of faith may be helped through their prayers much like Paul depended on the prayers of his followers.  We must remember that God is all powerful with unlimited goodness. He is surely able to rescind the eternal anguish of man.  He asks for our love and our love of each other.  When we pray for each other this is an act of love. We know the Theotokos and the angels and all the saints are always praying for us especially when we join with them in our services, such as a memorial for the dead or the Divine Liturgy.  Jesus told us, "Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." (Mk 11:24)  Elder Cleopa says, "Consequently, prayer for the reposed is not only a sign and strengthening of the love we share between us, but also proof of our faith. Thus the Savior says, "If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth." (Mk 9:23)

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16) we are told of a great chasm that exist between heaven and hell.  
Elder Cleopa tells us, 
"Yet, this chasm does not have the power to impede the mercy of our great God, Who hears our prayers for the reposed. We do not suppose, as do the Roman Catholics that there exists a purgatorial fire, but we say that only for those who sinned very severely and did not confess their sin is the passage from Hades to Paradise impossible.  For those who sinned more lightly this pathway is not definitely closed, given that in the future judgment each one's place, either in heaven or hell, will be decided definitely, inasmuch as after his judgment someone whose orientation was Hades can no longer pass over into Paradise. For those who sinned unto death, our prayers are completely futile...
God looks down from the heavens with attentiveness upon that which springs from love, for love is in its entirely the sum of His commandments."
Welcome to Our Parish!

The parish family of SS Peter & Paul Church cordially invites you to come and visit with them. We are a Pan-Orthodox community serving the region of Northern and Northwestern New Jersey. Our church is a parish in the New Jersey Deanery of the American Carpatho-Russian Diocese of the USA (ACROD) . We warmly welcome all who are searching for a church that is in unchanging continuity with the Church of the Apostles and where they may find the purity of the Apostolic Faith.

We are a church for those of all ages, ethnicities and races, for both families and singles who are searching for the anchor of a Christian community in our rootless society.

Above all, we are a Eucharistic community worshipping in the Holy Trinity in spirit and truth as we seek to know God, to conform ourselves to Christ's example of true humanity, and to be transformed to become partakers of the Divine Nature. Come and worship with us and with the Saints of all ages!

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The Lives of Saints Peter and Paul

The Holy Apostle Peter
The son of Jonah and brother of Andrew the First-Called, of the tribe of Simeon and the town of Bethsaida, he was a fisherman and was at first called Simon, but the Lord was pleased to call him Cephas, or Peter (JN 1:42). He was the first of the disciples to give clear expression to his faith in the Lord Jesus, saying, "Though art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." (MT 16:16) His love for the Lord was very strong and his faith in Him went from strength to strength. When the Lord was put on trial, Peter denied Him three times, but he needed only one look into the face of the Lord and Peter's soul was filled with shame and repentance. After the descent of the Holy Spirit, Peter became a fearless and powerful preacher of the Gospel. After his first sermon in Jerusalem, about 3,000 souls were converted to the Faith. He preached the Gospel throughout Palestine and Asia Minor, in Italy and in Illyria. Peter was condemned to death on the order of the wicked Emporer Nero. After installing Linus as Bishop of Rome and exhorting and encouraging the flock of Christ there, Peter went to his death with joy. When he saw the cross before him, he asked the executioner to crucify him upside-down, because he felt himself to be unworthy to die in the same way as his Lord. And so, this great servant of the greatest Master went to his rest and received a crown of eternal glory!
The Holy Apostle Paul
Born in Tarsus and of the tribe of Benjamin, he was formerly called Saul and studied under the teacher Gamaliel. He was a Pharisee and fierce persecutor of Christians. Saul was wondrously converted to the Christian Faith by the Lord Himself, who appeared to him on the road to Damascus. He was baptized by the Apostle Ananias, named Paul and enrolled in the great work of the Apostles. He preached the Gospel everywhere with burning zeal, from the borders of Arabia to the land of Spain, among both the Jews and Gentiles (heathens) and receiving the title 'Apostle to the Gentiles'. His fearful sufferings were matched only by his superhuman endurance. Through all the years of preaching, he hung from day to day like a thread between life and death. Filling his days and nights with toil and suffering for Christ, organizing the Church in many places and reaching a high level of perfection, he was able to say, "It is not I who lives, but Christ who lives in me." (Galatians 2:20) Paul was brutally beheaded in Rome in the reign of Nero, at the same time as St. Peter.
Through all the world their voice resounds; their message reaches to the ends of the earth.
Prokimenon for the Feast of SS Peter and Paul
 
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