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Prayer for unborn children - forbidden?


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#1 Nemanja

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 10:57 PM

I thought it was normal to pray for Lord's mercy for children who weren't even born alive - regardless whether they died in their mothers' womb of natural causes, or whether they were killed by abortion. There are even prayers in more detailed prayer books which were written specifically for this.
However, I came across the writings (letters) of the very famous and respected Russian elder, Father Ioann (John) Krestiankin, who repeatedly said that we should not pray for the unborn children, and that it is even blasphemous to do so!
Unfortunately, I can't find quotes in English for what he wrote, but I can say that I found the quotes in the book which is a collection of his letters. The Serbian edition of the book has letters from three different books in Russian. While I don't speak Russian, if someone wants, I can try to type the title of the original books here.
The most important quotes about this issue from Father Ioann (my translation from Serbian to English):

I want to warn you immediately, that is, to tell you that you can't pray for unborn children, who did not come to this world in human form. That would be blasphemous.

What does that have to do with blasphemy? And why is "human form" important, I thought that Orthodox Church regards even embryo as a human being, so why is physical form of importance? Notice: this letter was sent to a woman, so the words "you can't pray for unborn children" can not be interpreted as "you can't mention them at the Liturgy, but you can pray in private".
Or this quote:

If a child was not born due to the evil will of the mother, then it should not be prayed for those lost children who didn't even get human appearance (they didn't even get to this world).

This second quote is taken from the third letter on this page (translated by Google). Basically, in that letter, the elder mentions a particular prayer which was supposed to be read for children who died at birth, or due to some unexpected circumstances. "It is intended, therefore, to those who have died by the will of God's providence and not by the will of the mother - offenders." Why is this important? A dead child is a dead child, why should the answer to the question "can I pray or not" be based on the cause of death? Can anyone offer some insight on this?

#2 Paul Cowan

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Posted 26 October 2012 - 03:52 AM

I can't speak for the elder, but I have read enough to know that not every elder for "the church". So as holy as this elder may be, it is conceivable, he is not speaking with authority here. And also when an elder gives a "word" to a person it is only for that person. It does the rest of us no purpose to try to relate that 'word" to our own lives as it was never intended for us.

Paul

#3 Eric Peterson

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Posted 26 October 2012 - 04:25 AM

My conjecture, since the book of Fr. John's letters has been published in English but has no explanitory footnotes (when many would be useful!), is that to pray for the victims of infanticide (abortion) as one would for ordinary victims of murder would be blasphemous becuase those innocent souls are like the angels.

Fr. John Krestiankin was a very well-respected and relied-upon father in the Russian Orthodox Church. He was an expert on canons and answering difficult questions.

Sometimes third-hand translations turn out strangely. Perhaps someone can post the English translation and the Russian original?

#4 John S.

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Posted 26 October 2012 - 01:39 PM

My conjecture, since the book of Fr. John's letters has been published in English but has no explanitory footnotes (when many would be useful!), is that to pray for the victims of infanticide (abortion) as one would for ordinary victims of murder would be blasphemous becuase those innocent souls are like the angels.

Fr. John Krestiankin was a very well-respected and relied-upon father in the Russian Orthodox Church. He was an expert on canons and answering difficult questions.

Sometimes third-hand translations turn out strangely. Perhaps someone can post the English translation and the Russian original?



Yes my first reaction was that he was perhaps condemning praying for forgiveness for the unborn children’s sins: since they didn’t come into the world, they had never yet sinned, so it would be wrong to pray for their “forgiveness.” But most of the prayers I have seen for the unborn are with regard to baptism—that is, asking God not to deprive them of His blessing and heavenly baptism and to accept those children into heaven.

#5 Christophoros

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Posted 26 October 2012 - 02:05 PM

When I first read Fr. John's quote a few years ago, I wrote a ROCOR priest well-known for his involvement in the pro-life movement for clarification. Here was his reply:

Fr. John is correct, insofar as we do not pray for the souls of those who died before birth...nor do we pray for new-borns. They have no sin and, in a very real way, do not need our prayers. We should pray for those who either caused their death or who suffered because of it.

We do not have a funeral service for a child still-born, aborted, or who died as a result of a miscarriage.

Because there is no "Original Sin" as taught by western Christians, there is no need to pray for them. They are saved because they are innocent.


#6 Kimberly A

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Posted 26 October 2012 - 04:42 PM

We do not have a funeral service for a child still-born, aborted, or who died as a result of a miscarriage.


I was told that, strictly speaking, such children shouldn't even be buried in an Orthodox cemetery! That should only happen if they were baptized. Why is that? Is it because Orthodox cemeteries are only meant for those who were a part of the Church on earth, and those who died before birth were never a part of that, even though they will be saved?

#7 Nemanja

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Posted 26 October 2012 - 05:59 PM

When I first read Fr. John's quote a few years ago, I wrote a ROCOR priest well-known for his involvement in the pro-life movement for clarification. Here was his reply:

Fr. John is correct, insofar as we do not pray for the souls of those who died before birth...nor do we pray for new-borns. They have no sin and, in a very real way, do not need our prayers. We should pray for those who either caused their death or who suffered because of it.

We do not have a funeral service for a child still-born, aborted, or who died as a result of a miscarriage.

Because there is no "Original Sin" as taught by western Christians, there is no need to pray for them. They are saved because they are innocent.


I think that this priest did not understand what Fr. John said. In Fr. John's texts it is clear that he did not forbid these prayers because there was no need for them. Also, since you, Christophoros, found this same opinion of the elder as I did, and you found it in another language, that shows us that it is not a mistranslation. The elder did forbid this. I think it would be a big mistake to say that "the elder might be wrong", as he insisted on this rule and he must have had a very good reason for it. I surely hope that some of the fathers on this forum could offer some more insight.

Fr. John's reasons against praying for the unborn children were:
1. the unborn child did not come to this world „in human form“
2. there is a prayer which he considered to be appropriate, and that is the prayer for infants who died at childbirth and, as he says „by the will of God's providence and not by the will of the mothers - offenders“.
His reasons have nothing to do with the innocence of those children.

Therefore, I believe that my confusion is justified. To me, it is completely unclear:
1. „Why is „human form“ important? That is, why is it important at what stage of the pregnancy an infant died? Why is it blasphemous to pray for an unborn child if he died in the mother's womb, and not blasphemous to pray for the child if he/she was born dead? It doesn't make much sense to me, and I don't see any connection with blasphemy.
2. Why is it important how the child died? That is, what difference does it make whether the child was killed by a doctor, or by the providence of God?

#8 Kosta

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Posted 26 October 2012 - 07:53 PM

I was told that, strictly speaking, such children shouldn't even be buried in an Orthodox cemetery! That should only happen if they were baptized. Why is that? Is it because Orthodox cemeteries are only meant for those who were a part of the Church on earth, and those who died before birth were never a part of that, even though they will be saved?


I dont know exactly what criteria are used in an Orthodox cemetary, but to be in the Church you must be baptised. It is the initiation rite of entrance into the church militant. Thats probably what that person meant.

But on the other question, it is true a baby lost through miscarriage or abortion or stillborn would not be in a same state as one born into the world (and dying unbaptised). Christ's command is that we are to be born again through baptism, implying we must first exit the womb (alive). A baby who dies in the womb never entered the fallen world.

#9 Nemanja

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Posted 26 October 2012 - 11:09 PM

But on the other question, it is true a baby lost through miscarriage or abortion or stillborn would not be in a same state as one born into the world (and dying unbaptised). Christ's command is that we are to be born again through baptism, implying we must first exit the womb (alive). A baby who dies in the womb never entered the fallen world.

Could you please explain this better, as I am completely confused? I thought that a human person is created at the moment of conception. That is why abortion is forbidden, and not only abortion, but also contraception methods which kill embryos and prevent them from being implanted into the womb are seen as abortion. A person suffers the consequences of Original Sin from the moment of conception. Therefore, what does it mean that this person "never entered the fallen world"? Well, if not the fallen world, what world did the baby enter at the moment of conception? The way of thinking which you present seems to imply that the baby isn't "really human" until birth.

#10 Kosta

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 03:26 AM

Could you please explain this better, as I am completely confused? I thought that a human person is created at the moment of conception. That is why abortion is forbidden, and not only abortion, but also contraception methods which kill embryos and prevent them from being implanted into the womb are seen as abortion. A person suffers the consequences of Original Sin from the moment of conception. Therefore, what does it mean that this person "never entered the fallen world"? Well, if not the fallen world, what world did the baby enter at the moment of conception? The way of thinking which you present seems to imply that the baby isn't "really human" until birth.



Oh sorry for the misunderstanding, What i meant is babies aborted do not need to be lamented as 'unbaptized' since a prerequisite to baptism is the neccesity to be born a first time. We do not need to worry or speculate about their fate. The prayer of the Church for miscarriage is characterized as murder or manslaughter. A harsh description in the case of a miscarriage or stillborn but one that signifies a baptism by martyrdom, like the holy Innocents.

JOHN3:

3...Jesus replied, Very truly I tell you, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born AGAIN.

4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.'


Most versions of the prayer for miscarriage ive found online does not have a prayer for the child but for the mother,' to heal her of her sin whether willingly or unwillingly. I cant really answer what the elder meant, but i think he is simply implying that it should be born alive to be prayed for. Human form simply means both body and soul. Christ was found in human form by taking on flesh from the Theotokos and a rational soul.

#11 Reader Paul A. Barrera

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Posted 27 October 2012 - 11:53 PM

I was told that, strictly speaking, such children shouldn't even be buried in an Orthodox cemetery! That should only happen if they were baptized. Why is that? Is it because Orthodox cemeteries are only meant for those who were a part of the Church on earth, and those who died before birth were never a part of that, even though they will be saved?


Children born of faithful parents who died before a live birth are buried in Orthodox cemeteries. I have seen it in our cemeteries, so do not be concerned.

Since most miscarriages happen before 12 weeks, it would be difficult to bury the remains. Later miscarriages, called still borns, would be more likely to be buried. My friend had a still born, and her baby is buried in a church yard.

Regarding the need to pray for them, I echo what Christophoros and Kosta said - they have not been exposed to the cosmos in a proper way, so they cannot experience the first sin of Adam. Therefore, there is no need to pray for them - rather, they pray for us.

#12 Eric Peterson

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 09:19 PM

Perhaps a priest can answer this--I would assume there's something for it in the Trebnik:

Assuming there's a still birth or a death before an emergency baptism can be performed, how is the baby buried?

#13 Emiel Claeskens

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Posted 23 November 2012 - 03:05 PM

I can only say a few things.
I remember, when I was at school, that the priest told us that when a woman was pregnant and the unborn child was in danger of dying (miscarridge), the child was baptised with an injection of baptism water; Isuppose this was only a roman-Catholic habit because of the belief in original sin.
Concerning the prayer for children.
In the Catholic Church there is a "litany of all Saints". One of the prayers is: "Holy innocent children, pray for us". By "innocent children" are meant the children who were killed by king Herod. When I pray this litany, sometimes in the evening, and arrive at this prayer, in my mind I include also the children who were killed that day in my country by abortion, approximately 53. So it came never in my mind to pray for them, but I always prayed to them, and I strongly believe thet they intercede for us, sinners. If my idea is orthodox, I do not know, I simply feel it that way...

#14 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 24 November 2012 - 03:07 PM

Perhaps a priest can answer this--I would assume there's something for it in the Trebnik:

Assuming there's a still birth or a death before an emergency baptism can be performed, how is the baby buried?


There is a prayer in the Trebnik for a still birth. But I believe the prayer is for the mother.

I don't recall any specific instructions about burials in such cases. You hear stories from the past of areas of cemetaries apart from the rest which were specifically for unbaptised children. But I don't know if these accounts are true or not or the manner in which such burials occurred.

The two times I was involved in such situations the burial was in some suitable location; the second time in the lot of a previously reposed parishioner which I thought was a very nice idea (the little one lying on someone else). For the prayers we used Psalm 90.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#15 Reader Paul A. Barrera

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Posted 25 October 2013 - 05:21 AM

The OCA Holy Synod blessed a liturgical service for miscarried babies.  I'll post it when it is released.

 

  • The texts and order of two memorial services for pre-born
    infants—one that may be celebrated shortly after death, the other a
    funeral service—were approved for liturgical use upon the recommendation
    of His Eminence, Archbishop Benjamin.
    taken from http://oca.org/news/...s-fall-session1


#16 kyril

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Posted 07 January 2014 - 05:54 AM

I'm a lifelong batchelor; but a former Anglican priest; and I know that my parishioners have prayed for a 'safe childbirth'

and given thanks for it too.Included in the whole concept of a 'safe childbirth' is the health of the mother and the (unborn) child;

- the child known to be living in its mother's womb, that is, one with a high percentage of being born alive.

If, for some reason, it is not possible to tell whether the child is alive or not in the womb - lack of a doctor, perhaps - there is no reason at all not to pray for mother and child at least until the child is "still-born."

(or perhaps this is not quite the point?)






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