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Author Topic: Orthodox "last rites"  (Read 4124 times) Average Rating: 0
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Ortho_cat
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« on: August 17, 2009, 01:25:04 AM »

I'm curious to know what rites are performed on the Orthodox faithful before/after they die.  That is, what does the priest come to say and do.  If I convert to Orthodoxy, I want to know what the priest is going to be conducting over my body while i'm preparing to be, or already am "asleep".  Wink

If you're still alive, will he request that you ask for forgiveness of sins? (a final confession?) Will he perform holy unction? Will he ask if you want to partake of the eucharist one last time? What prayers will he say?

Ok, what happens if the priest doesn't "make it" in time? How does this affect the "last rites" he performs?  Can he pray for the forgiveness of your sins, even if you are already dead? Will he still anoint you with oil? Will he still feed you the eucharist?

Thanks!
« Last Edit: August 17, 2009, 01:26:17 AM by Ortho_cat » Logged
Thomas
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« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2009, 09:46:24 AM »

Orthodox Christians when near death are usually confessed and communed if possible.  There are also prayers that are said at the departure of the soul from the body. Then there is the First Panikida or First Trisagion served the day of the death or at the funeral home, home , or church. Orthodox Chjristians often have friends to stay with the body and read through the Psalter until the funeral/ At the Orthodox Funeral (usually 3 days after death) another longer Panikida or Trisagion is served this time with beautiful canons that remind us of our own transient and temporary status in this world and remind us to pray that we and the reposed one may be worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. And then there is the grave service. On the thirtieth day another Panikida /Memorial Trisagion Service is held. After that time on the anniversary of the Repose a Pnikida/Memorial Trisaginon is served for the person.

Thomas
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« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2009, 02:19:38 PM »

After death none of the sacraments can be performed including Confession, Unction and Eucharist. Sacraments are for those, who are alive and conscious.
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« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2009, 02:31:21 PM »

Orthodox Christians when near death are usually confessed and communed if possible.  There are also prayers that are said at the departure of the soul from the body. Then there is the First Panikida or First Trisagion served the day of the death or at the funeral home, home , or church. Orthodox Chjristians often have friends to stay with the body and read through the Psalter until the funeral/ At the Orthodox Funeral (usually 3 days after death) another longer Panikida or Trisagion is served this time with beautiful canons that remind us of our own transient and temporary status in this world and remind us to pray that we and the reposed one may be worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. And then there is the grave service. On the thirtieth day another Panikida /Memorial Trisagion Service is held. After that time on the anniversary of the Repose a Pnikida/Memorial Trisaginon is served for the person.

Thomas

In addition to the above, it should be noted that at the wake and at the funeral the casket is open. While some choose to have the wake at a Funeral Home, quite often the individual will be viewed at the parish they attended.

There is also some discussion as to whether or not a body should be embalmed, but I will let those wiser than I expand upon that topic.

Maureen
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« Reply #4 on: August 17, 2009, 02:57:32 PM »

Orthodox tradition does not include "last rites", at least not as last rites were traditionally understood by medieval, pre-modern and modern Roman Catholics. I've read that RC theology has changed its understanding of unction in the last 3 decades or so, but I don't know how true that is.

Anyway, there is no extreme unction or other sacramental ceremony specifically performed at -- and only at -- the death bed. And it is actually forbidden by the canons to give sacraments of any kind to a dead body.

That said, it's typical for a priest to visit people in the hospital, pray some of the prayers for recovery from health contained in the priest's service book, anoint the sick person with holy oil, and/or give them Holy Communion. Confession is also possible, of course. Depends on the circumstances and the strength/capability of the person.

Once a person dies, though, prayer is what is called for. I think Thomas outlined the various prayer traditions. The Orthodox funeral service itself is reserved only for those Orthodox Christians who die in good standing with the Church.

it should be noted that at the wake and at the funeral the casket is open. While some choose to have the wake at a Funeral Home, quite often the individual will be viewed at the parish they attended.

Not only is the casket open (because the dogmatic hymns themselves are actually chanted from the perspective of the departed individual, who is positioned so as to be a participant/preacher in the service), but we kiss the body in affection for the person and in reverence to the Icon of Christ he/she is.
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« Reply #5 on: August 17, 2009, 04:01:43 PM »


When my uncle had a stroke 5 years ago, he lived for only 6 weeks.  During those weeks, the priest came often to visit him and offered him Holy Confession and the Holy Eucharist. 

We didn't know he was going to die.  We were doing all we could to help him regain his strength and return to us.

However, the day before he passed away, he had a turn for the worse.  We, again notified the priest, who came and Confessed him once again, and gave him the Holy Eucharist; and administered Holy Unction.  He made it abundantly clear that this was not "last rites".  The Holy Unction is to "assist" the individual.  He said that if my uncle is meant to recover, his recovery will be aided.  If, on the other hand, is not meant to recover, his passing will be easier on him.

At that point, my uncle was still under the impression, as were we all, that he would recover.  However, late that night the doctors had his stomach pumped.  Since he had just received Holy Communion, I swallowed my pride, and asked the nurse for the stomach contents.  She grimaced at me and I told her why.

However, the next day it was evident that he was not doing so well.  He had his eyes focused on a corner of the room.  No matter if I placed myself in his line of vision, he looked right through me.  If I yelled loudly, he grudgingly would pull his gaze away and look at me, only to look back to the corner.

He died later that day, at the first moment that he was left alone in his room.  I had stepped out to speak with the nurse when all the bells went off.  I ran back in, grabbed his hand and began reading the Psalter through tears. 

He had signed a "do not resuscitate" order.  With all the bells, and all the commotion, they asked me what to do.  I know that my mother, his sister, would be brokenhearted at not being there...My sister having heard the bells jumped in the car to bring my mother.  I dialed her cellphone, yelled at my mom to tell him whatever she had to say, and stuck my phone to his ear, while his heart was still pumping.

When he died, everyone left, except me.  I continued reading.

The first night we left him there, and he was transported to the funeral home, where a service was conducted the following evening.  Since we opted to not have him embalmed, it was a state requirement that the casket remain closed.

That night we had him moved to the church, where my mother and I spent the whole night with him, reading the Psalter.  I had one paragraph to go when people started showing up in the morning for the Divine Liturgy and Funeral service.

Just this last Sunday, we had a panachida for him.  It is now five years since he passed, yet, it feels like yesterday.

We did not have him embalmed.  He returned to God with everything God had given him.  There is no use in embalming this body.
However, the State of Michigan, requires the casket remain closed if the body is not embalmed.
Therefore, it was only opened for us, in private, during which time we placed an icon, a cross in his hand, a candle, and other items in the coffin.

It was opened again quickly during the funeral for the paper strip/wreath to placed on his head, and the "proclamation of absolution" to be placed in his hands.


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« Reply #6 on: August 17, 2009, 04:22:59 PM »

May your Uncle's Memory Be Eternal!
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