Speaking for the Dead: A Science Fiction Book and an Orthodox Sacrament Collide

So, as you read yesterday, we made the communion bread for church this morning. It was an appropriate Sunday for us to provide the bread, because along with your bread you give the priest a list of people to pray for – both living and dead.

The priest actually takes small pieces of the bread to represent both the living and the departed on our list and prays for them while preparing communion prior to Divine Liturgy. Then the people on our list are named and prayed for during the Great Entrance, which is when the priest and clergy come down the aisles with the communion elements.

So on this Sunday before the anniversary of Will’s (my brother’s) death, his name was read, his spirit was prayed for, along with the names of my brother-in-law who was killed in Afghanistan and some of mine and Steven’s grandparents.

In Hebrew tradition, naming a child was literally calling them into being, breathing life into them. In the Orthodox Church, we continue to name those who have died, celebrating our belief that they are, indeed, still alive in spirit or “breath.”

Likewise, Orson Scott Card explores the intricacies of what should be said at one’s funeral in his book Speaker For The Dead. In the book, Andrew Wiggin (aka Ender from Ender’s Game) teaches people that the truth should be told about a person who has died. We should not blindly glorify them as so often is done at funerals, but we should also not dwell on all of their sins and mistakes.

Card says that “to understand who a person really was, what his or her life really meant, the speaker for the dead would have to explain their self-story- what they meant to do, what they actually did, what they regretted, what they rejoiced in. That’s the story that we never know, the story that we never can know- and yet, at the time of death, it’s the only story truly worth telling.” (Interestingly, Card has lost 2 children, one being a son who was 17 years old, the age my brother was when he passed away.)

There is not enough time or pages to tell everyone’s story here, but today, it will suffice to speak their names, to recognize that they have a story worth being told, a memory worth being held onto, an acknowledgment that they are alive and with God.

Fannie Mae


  1. Angela says:

    Another beautiful post. So true. On my list: Jason, David, Rose, Mary, Conrad, John, Helen, Robert, William, Eugene, Flora, Lady Grace. What lives they led!

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