Members of the Orthodox Church lead lives dedicated to their faith. Therefore it is natural for Orthodox Christians to wish to have their funeral processions carried out in the same way. With the belief that their loving Lord is merciful even to the deceased, an Orthodox funeral service is a moving ceremony filled with profound spiritual thoughts.
Basic parts of today’s Orthodox funeral service can be traced right down to the 5th Century. But even from earliest Christian times, ceremonies for deceased Orthodox Christians are enriched with psalms and hymns. When performing these readings, prayers and hymns, it is believed that a dialogues take place between members of the faith and God, and the deceased and God.
Especially of the Eastern Orthodox Church, a particular order of items can be expected. Prior to the service, a Trisagion, or “Thrice-Holy” Service is carried out at the place where the deceased lies. The prayers, selected hymns and litany asks the Lord to give rest to the deceased among Christians that have already been perfected in the faith. A petition is also posed to the Lord to ask forgiveness for the deceased’s sins.
To commence an Orthodox funeral service, Christians chant verses from Psalm 119 in three stanzas. Following this is the Evlogetaria, the Funeral Praises, which highlight the deep theological content of the Orthodox faith. Subsequently, the Kontakion and Hymns of the Eight Tones are chanted while the priest of the service censes the deceased, faithful members, the Holy Altar Table and icons. The hymns sung during this phase express the mixed emotions of grief and consolation.
Scripture lessons are then presented to attendees to reflect on the Church’s belief in the reality of Christ’s death and resurrection, the resurrection of a believer’s body on the last day, and the promise of truth and immortality. In the Prayers and Dismissal section, the Priest asks the “God of spirits and of all humankind” to grant rest to the soul of the deceased.
Lastly, the final farewell greeting to the deceased comes in The Kiss of Peace and Anointing. Funeral attendees can approach and kiss the deceased. The kiss is an expression of love for the departed and an affirmation that the deceased is worthy of fulfilment of God’s promises having lived a life of faith. All those present at the service then proceed to the cemetery, where the priest chants the Trisaigon again. The deceased is then lowered into the grave to await the return of their Lord and the resurrection of the dead.
With these readings, prayers and hymns, the service illustrates how Orthodox theology contributes to a healthy perspective of life and death. Such materials touch on the meaning and purpose of life, outlooks on how to deal with emotions, emphasise hope in salvation and eternal life, and encourages the expression of the natural grief caused by the separation from a loved one. It is a versatile, dramatic and impassioned service for those of Orthodox faith. If you want to learn more about Orthodox funeral arrangements, please do not hesitate to ask one of the friendly directors at Victoria Funerals in Melbourne.