Dating the old testament
two] drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection (for if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead), and because he considered that they who had fallen asleep in godliness, had great grace laid up for them.
Or, if Christ meant to emphasize the distinction of worlds, is "the world to come" to be understood, not of the life after death, but of the Messianic age on earth as imagined and expected by the Jews?Both interpretations have been proposed; but the second is far-fetched and decidedly improbable (cf.Mark ); while the first, though admissible, is less obvious and less natural than that which allows the implied question at least to remain: May sins be forgiven in the world to come?It is reasonable also to assume, in the absence of positive proof to the contrary, that this practice was maintained in later times, and that Christ and the Apostles were familiar with it; and whatever other evidence is available from Talmudic and other sources strongly confirms this assumption, if it does not absolutely prove it as a fact (see, v.g., Luckock, "After Death", v, pp. This is worth noting because it helps us to understand the true significance of Christ's silence on the subject if it be held on the incomplete evidence of the Gospels that He was indeed altogether silent and justifies us in regarding the Christian practice as an inheritance from orthodox Judaism.We have said that there is no clear and explicit Scriptural text in favour of prayers for the dead, except the above text of II Machabees.Catholic teaching regarding prayers for the dead is bound up inseparably with the doctrine of purgatory and the more general doctrine of the communion of the saints, which is an article of the Apostle's Creed. XXV), "that purgatory exists, and that the souls detained therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but especially by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar", is merely a restatement in brief of the traditional teaching which had already been embodied in more than one authoritative formula as in the creed prescribed for converted Waldenses by Innocent III in 1210 (Denzinger, Enchiridion, n.
3 73) and more fully in the profession of faith accepted for the Greeks by Michael Palaeologus at the Second Ecumenical Council of Florence in 1439: "[We define] likewise, that if the truly penitent die in the love of God, before they have made satisfaction by worthy fruits of penance for their sins of commission and omission, their souls are purified by purgatorial pains after death; and that for relief from these pains they are benefitted by the suffrages of the faithful in this life, that is, by Masses, prayers, and almsgiving, and by the other offices of piety usually performed by the faithful for one another according to the practice  of the Church" (ibid., n. Hence, under "suffrages" for the dead, which are defined to be legitimate and efficacious, are included not only formal supplications, but every kind of pious work that may be offered for the spiritual benefit of others, and it is in this comprehensive sense that we speak of prayers in the present article.
Each is in some degree the beneficiary of the spiritual activities of the others, of their prayers and good works, their merits and satisfactions; nor is this degree to be wholly measured by those indirect ways in which the law of solidarity works out in other cases, nor by the conscious and explicit altruistic intentions of individual agents.
It is wider than this, and extends to the bounds of the mysterious.
Of few, on the other hand, will they at least who love them admit the despairing thought that they are beyond the pale of grace and mercy, and condemned to eternal separation from God and from all who hope to be with God.
On this ground alone it has been truly said that purgatory is a postulate of the Christian reason; and, granting the existence of the purgatorial state, it is equally a postulate of the Christian reason in the communion of saints, or, in other words, be helped by the prayers of their brethren on earth and in heaven.
Yet there are one or two sayings of Christ recorded by the Evangelists, which are most naturally interpreted as containing an implicit reference to a purgatorial state after death; and in St.