A Question That Stumped Theology Students
THE Serbian-Orthodox believers of Yugoslavia practice worship of the dead. On “All Souls’ Day” every family visits the cemetery with baskets full of eatables. A specially prepared sacrificial cake must not be missing. It is a cake prepared from pure wheat, milk, honey and cinnamon, and everyone coming to the grave, whether he knew the dead person or not, is offered a spoonful and eats it. This cake is offered at the so-called “Parastos celebration” (memorial to the dead), which is held in the home every year on the anniversary of the death of a member of the family. All relatives and friends are invited to it.
When making a return call on a daughter of a deceased priest, a woman minister of Jehovah’s witnesses unsuspectingly came upon the family just as they were celebrating the Parastos ceremony. As she entered the room she suddenly found herself faced with a whole group of people, which included two students of theology of the Orthodox church.
There the witness stood! The hostess handed her a spoon and held out the Parastos cake. It is the custom, you see, for a visitor to partake of the cake before being introduced. As she took hold of the spoon she asked if she could raise a question. Since so many were present, surely she would receive the right answer.
“Of course you may ask a question,” the hostess replied. The witness proceeded: “Let us assume that your brother has been accused and imprisoned and you engaged the services of a lawyer to bring about his release. You pay this lawyer again and again for his work. Now, let us say, after two years, have you the right to ask the lawyer how far he has got toward the release of your brother?”
“Yes, certainly!” came the reply. “And is the lawyer obligated to inform you as to his progress and what prospects there may be of your brother’s release?” “Of course!” they said. “All right, then,” said the witness as she turned to the lady of the house. “Your father died many years ago, and at least once a year, on Parastos day, you pay a lot of money for mass, for parastosse and the ceremonies at the grave. The priests say that your father may go to heaven. Have you ever asked the priest how far your father has got on his way? Surely he ought to know. It may be that your father is already there and there is no further need for masses and these ceremonies. Can anyone here answer my question?”
Silence descended on the company. No one answered. The eyes of all centered on the two students of theology. But the men found themselves in an embarrassing situation. The witness laid down the spoon without having taken the sacrificial cake. Then one student broke the silence, saying: “It is an audacity to make such a comparison and to disturb and degrade this sublime ceremony to such a level.” “Why audacious?” asked a resolute-thinking Serbian woman. “These questions were really excellent and they fit the facts.” “Quite right,” said another. “You should be able to give expert answers to these questions. Why do you try to get out of the situation by resorting to insults?”
Now an aunt spoke up: “I shall ask our pater these same questions at the very next opportunity. For twenty years now I have paid no end of money for mass and parastosse for my dead Jovan, and he must surely be where he belongs by now. Why should I still pinch and scrape to get these amounts together each year?” Turning to the witness, the woman asked: “What religion do you belong to?”
“I am a Christian,” she replied simply. Then she showed what the Bible says about the soul, that it is mortal. She explained what death is and its cause and the hope of the dead, that is, a resurrection. All listened attentively. She closed by promising to call the next day. A Bible study is now being held in this home. The two aunts attend Bible lectures with the interested lady. The truth is setting many free from false religion.
And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.—John 8:32.