...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 6:37 AM [+]
I just heard a story on NPR about a successful heart transplant and about how the recipient went on to win a gold medal at the "Transplant Games." At one point the story goes into the details of the emotional struggles that surviving transplant recipients frequent have and one part in particular really touched me. The recipient often grieves for the person who had to lose their life in order for the recipient to live, and in this case, the recipient felt like the spirit of her donor could hear her and so she began to speak to her; thanking her. She felt a connection.
I think humans have a natural (in the truest theological sense of the word) inclination toward feeling an unbroken connectedness with people who have died. In other words, we feel as though they are still with us, present and yet not present. How often do we hear of widows or widowers say that they talk to their "dearly departed"? It is like the "ghost" feelings of a leg amputated long ago.
A non-Orthodox friend once confided with me that he believed he understood the Orthodox practice of invoking the Saints because after his mother died he had a very profound sense that she was watching him and was listening to him. He related the feeling to me with teary eyed conviction, and a heartfelt nod when I told him there is no such thing as a "dead" Christian.
We are connected to our loved ones by our blood and our personal affections, and we are connected to the Saints by the Body and Blood of Christ Himself, and their affections for His Church.