Eastern Writings On Praying For The Dead and Purgatory?

I was wondering if there was anything from St John Chrysostom or the Philokalia about praying for the deceased or any Eastern Catholic writings on Purgatory?

Christ Our Pascha has a section on Pg 89, Section 1 Our Faith, Line 250.


St. John Chrysostom:

For not unmeaningly have these things been devised, nor do we in vain make mention of the departed in the course of the divine mysteries, and approach God in their behalf, beseeching the Lamb Who is before us, Who takes away the sin of the world — not in vain, but that some refreshment may thereby ensue to them. Not in vain does he that stands by the altar cry out when the tremendous mysteries are celebrated, For all that have fallen asleep in Christ, and for those who perform commemorations in their behalf. For if there were no commemorations for them, these things would not have been spoken: since our service is not a mere stage show, God forbid! Yea, it is by the ordinance of the Spirit that these things are done.

Let us then give them aid and perform commemoration for them. For if the children of Job were purged by the sacrifice of their father, why do you doubt that when we too offer for the departed, some consolation arises to them? Since God is wont to grant the petitions of those who ask for others. And this Paul signified saying, that in a manifold Person your gift towards us bestowed by many may be acknowledged with thanksgiving on your behalf. 2 Corinthians 1:11 Let us not then be weary in giving aid to the departed, both by offering on their behalf and obtaining prayers for them: for the common Expiation of the world is even before us. Therefore with boldness do we then intreat for the whole world, and name their names with those of martyrs, of confessors, of priests. For in truth one body are we all, though some members are more glorious than others; and it is possible from every source to gather pardon for them, from our prayers, from our gifts in their behalf, from those whose names are named with theirs. Why therefore do you grieve? Why mourn, when it is in your power to gather so much pardon for the departed?

The Catholic Encyclopedia article on Purgatory, in the subsection “Tradition” in the section “Proofs” lists other writings from the East and West (Sts. Gregory of Nyssa, Clement of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, etc.)

Of course, the prayers for the dead in the liturgies of east and west are themselves a good testimony.


This might not be helpful if you’re only looking for Eastern Catholic, but St. John Maximovitch wrote extensively about the topic as well:


Pretty good read haven’t finished reading the footnotes but thanks for the link.

I’m curious about the Arial Tollhouses I know that not all Orthodox believe in them and they have not been pronounced to be Dogmatic.

What is the basis in Orthodox Christianity?

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That’s above my paygrade :wink: . It’s a controversial subject, but there is Patristic evidence and liturgical evidence for it.


Some more EO sources:

Mark of Ephesus, First Homily on Prayer for the Dead and Against the Roman Catholic Purgatory (he strenuously objected to actual fire or a definite place, although he also speaks of it as being like “in prison and confinement under guard”, but he ends up teaching what Catholics believe as defined by the Council of Florence):

But if souls have departed this life in faith and love, while nevertheless carrying away with themselves certain faults, whether small ones over which they have not repented at all, or great ones for which — even though they have repented over them — they did not undertake to show fruits of repentance: such souls, we believe, must be cleansed from this kind of sins, but not by means of some purgatorial fire or a definite punishment in some place (for this, as we have said, has not at all been handed down to us)…All such ones, we affirm, are helped by the prayers and Liturgies performed for them, with the cooperation of the Divine Goodness and Love for mankind.

And while he rejects the pain of fire, he instead affirms that “some are cleansed by fear, while others are devoured by the gnawing of conscience with more torment than any fire, and still others are cleansed by the very terror before the Divine Glory and the uncertainty as to what the future will be.” This is similar to some acceptable theories Benedict XVI mentions in the encyclical Spe Salvi.

The idea of the prison is also found in this EO pan-patriarchal synod:

Synod of Jerusalem 1672, Creed of Dositheus:

And the souls of those involved in mortal sins, who have not departed in despair but while still living in the body, though without bringing forth any fruits of repentance, have repented — by pouring forth tears, by kneeling while watching in prayers, by afflicting themselves, by relieving the poor, and finally by showing forth by their works their love towards God and their neighbor, and which the Catholic Church has from the beginning rightly called satisfaction — [their souls] depart into Hades, and there endure the punishment due to the sins they have committed. But they are aware of their future release from there, and are delivered by the Supreme Goodness, through the prayers of the Priests, and the good works which the relatives of each do for their Departed; especially the unbloody Sacrifice benefiting the most; which each offers particularly for his relatives that have fallen asleep, and which the Catholic and Apostolic Church offers daily for all alike. Of course, it is understood that we do not know the time of their release. We know and believe that there is deliverance for such from their direful condition, and that before the common resurrection and judgment, but when we know not.


My understanding is it has its origin in St. Cyril of Alexandria:

Homily on the Departure of the Soul

At Our soul’s separation from the body, there will stand before us on one side warriors and powers of Heaven, and on the other side the powers of darkness, the princes of this world, the aerial publicans, the torturers, the prosecutors of our deeds… Seeing them, the soul is dismayed, it shudders, and in consternation and horror will seek protection from the angels of God; but being received by the holy angels and passing through the aerial space, lifted on high under their protection, it encounters the toll-booths, as it were, certain gates or toll houses in which taxes are exacted which will bar its way into the Kingdom, will halt and hold back its progress towards it. At each of these toll-booths an account is demanded for particular sins.

Here, the soul is held back from entering the Kingdom, not permanently, but until the taxes are paid. This, like other tollhouse explanations, makes it more like a purgatorial theory, in line with EO sources I posted above. But I’ve seen other explanations though that give a different character to it related more to one’s particular judgment.


There are quite a bit of Latin Rite books on Purgatory I was wondering if there exist books within the Eastern Rites pertaining to praying for the dead?

A lot of materials are shared by Eastern Catholics and Orthodox.

I think it would be neat if someone wrote a book about Purgatory and praying for the dead in the Eastern tradition.

From the Ruthenian Orthodox union with the Catholic Church at the Union of Brest (or Union of Brestia) – 1597 A.D. – in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

5. We shall not debate about purgatory, but we entrust ourselves to the teaching of the Holy Church.


Yes I know I read this in.

I wasn’t debating it I was asking what kind of books are there like devotional works for praying for the dead?

There’s quit a few books on Purgatory in the West but I wanted some Eastern materials on praying for the deceased.

In the link I posted above (“Patristic evidence”) there are actually two sources that are earlier or contemporary with St. Cyril (i.e. St. Anthony and St. Diadochos of Photiki). St. Diadochos was included in the Philokalia as saying:

“If we do not confess our involuntary sins as we should, we shall discover and ill-defined fear in ourselves at the hour of our death. We who love the Lord should pray that we may be without fear at that time; for if we are afraid then, we will not be able freely to pass by the rulers of the nether world. They will have as their advocate to plead against us the fear which our soul experiences because of its own wickedness. But the soul which rejoices in the love of God, at the hour of its departure, is lifted with the angels of peace above all the hosts of darkness. For it is given wings by spiritual love, since it ceaselessly carries within itself the love which ‘is the fulfilling of the law’ (Rom. 13:10).”

St. Anthony’s vision (which was written by his biographer St. Athanasius, who died in 373 AD before St. Cyril was born) mentions a gigantic devil with his torso on earth and his head in the sky, trying to catch souls with gigantic hands before they ascend to heaven. Some souls manage to slip through his fingers easily and keep going, some are pushed down with little effort, and some get caught under his hand and struggle mightily before eventually breaking free and going up. This has been interpreted by our priests as another vision of the toll-houses.


I’d look at the text from the Orthodox funeral service:

That would probably be a good start.




Here is are the text from the Metropolitan Cantor Institute (Byzantine Catholic):

Should not be any different from the Greek Orthodox but I thought you might like another resource!



Found the Akathist for the dead on a few websites and a it looks like this book here has prayers for the souls in Purgatory.

I have no idea what they are but I need to pick up some Eastern Catholic prayer books for my family anyhow.

Oh man tell me what you think about it!

@ziapueblo @ReaderT @Vico

Is there an Orthodox prayer book for the deceased?

I’m not sure that Orthodox have devotional books for specific causes the way Catholics do?

Would you use these prayers for the deceased in private prayer or are these prayers only said by a priest at a funeral?

I guess what I’m trying to figure out is what kind of written prayers do Eastern Catholic / Eastern Orthodox use for personal prayer.

The Latin Church has various different prayers and devotions for the deceased and the holy souls in purgatory.

There are whole prayers books dedicated to various subjects and spiritualities.

I’m trying to figure out what Eastern Christians usually use according to their tradition?

For the Eastern Catholic folks I’m wondering if y’all just use the Roman Catholic books or if the traditional Eastern prayers are used?

I know the word Purgatory isn’t typically used for Eastern Catholics and definitely not by Orthodox Christians.

For the Orthodox folks do y’all have special prayers or prayer books for the souls in the Aerial Tollhouses?

I have almost never heard the notion of Toll Houses mentioned except on the Internet or in circles where people have read about it on the Internet. I am sure this varies in time and location but our services are usually quite vague and symbolic when they deal with the Afterlife (just like the Scriptures).

Most Orthodox prayer books do however include prayers for the dead as part of the daily cycle. Mine has additional prayers that you use on Saturdays. We also have something called panikhída (Slavonic name) which is a service for the dead. The prayers are quite penitential in character. We also commemorate the dead as part of the Eucharistic Liturgy. There is also a tradition of lighting candles in front of the icons of the Theotokos to (our) left in the Church, and for the dead in front of Christ to (our) right. I am not sure if this practice is universal or not, but I believe it is quite widespread.

I hope this helps.


Agreed with Lasse above - we don’t have a particular book but we do have the “Canon for the Deceased” in many prayer books (it’s about a 20 minute long service) and Akathists (another type of service) for the dead. These can both be done at home privately or in a church.


The Euchalogion contains the burial services, and there is also the annual services to remember the dead (Parastas).

The Byzantine Book of Prayer includes the Funeral of a Layman and the Parastas. The Panachida is in The Divine Liturgies of Our Holy Fathers John Chrysostom and Basil The Great.

MCI Cantor site states:

  • The service “in the home” before the body is taken to church for burial (essentially a Panachida)
  • The graveside service (processional and burial, followed by a Panachida at the grave)
  • Special texts for the burial of a child who dies below the “age of reason”, with many of the hymns of judgment and forgiveness replaced by hymns asserting God’s special care over children and the innocent
  • Special texts for the funeral and memorial service during Bright Week (the week after Pascha). On these days we do not (in general) commemorate the dead, focusing instead on the Resurrection; the holy doors to the sanctuary remain open, and a pious belief holds that anyone who dies in Bright Week goes straight to heaven. So in the services for the dead during Bright Week, Paschal hymns replace many of the funeral and memorial elements.
  • Special funeral service for priests, with numerous Gospel readings, and older elements which have been dropped from the funeral service for laymen and laywomen.
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