ASK BISHOP BONSU
Question by Mr. Agbenorhevi
“My Lord, during the Eucharistic prayers after consecration there is a prayer for the dead/departed faithful that runs: “For those who have died and those who have fallen asleep”. Please what is the difference between the two and thus who are those referred to as those who have fallen asleep and those who have died, if the two do not mean same?”
The particular prayer for the dead that you have in mind is found in the Second Eucharistic Prayer. This is found in the section dealing with the intercession for the dead. It runs as follows: “Remember also our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection, and all who have died in your mercy: welcome them into the light of your face”. In this context “to sleep” or “fall asleep” is used metaphorically to mean “to die”. This is in line with biblical usage. Paul, for example, uses the verb “to sleep” (Greek: koimaomai) with reference to the deceased a total of nine times (1 Cor 7:39; 11:30; 15:6, 18, 20, 51; 1 Thess 4:13, 14, 15). Thus, in the context of the Eucharistic Prayer, both those “who have fallen asleep” and those “who have died” mean the same thing.
However, the prayer distinguishes two categories of the dead. The first category comprises “our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection”. In speaking of “brothers and sisters”, the prayer most likely has Christians in mind. These died in the explicit hope of the resurrection. The second category comprises “all those who have died in God’s mercy”. This category is a reference to all those – not necessarily Christians – who have died and for whom we implore God’s mercy. For both categories, the prayer is that God will welcome them into the light of His face, a metaphorical way of speaking of God’s presence.
Bishop Joseph Osei-Bonsu