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Author Topic: Orthodox funerary practices  (Read 515 times) Average Rating: 0
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David Young
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« on: June 22, 2011, 04:56:38 PM »

I am uneasy about the increasingly widespread practice of cremation among Christians; my own will stipulates burial, adding "not cremated". I have read that the Orthodox Church is firmly against cremation, and years ago I saw a pamphlet produced by the Strict Baptists in England entitled Cremation not for Christians. I should be interested to learn what your reasons (i.e. Orthodox ones) are for your opposition - assuming what I have read is true.
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« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2011, 06:05:40 PM »

Here is an excellent (and brief!) article explaining the Church's view on cremation.

Excerpt from article:

Quote
The Church has unequivocally taught since Christ’s Crucifixion that the proper way to treat the dead is a reverent burial of the body in the context of a proper Church funeral and prayers for those who have fallen asleep in the Lord. We sing hymns and psalms to escort the dead on their way and to express gratitude to God for their life and death. We wrap the body in a new shroud, symbolizing the new dress of incorruption the person is destined to receive. We pour myrrh and oil on the body as we do at baptism. We accompany this with incense and candles, showing our belief that the person has been liberated from darkness and is going to the true Light. We place the body in the grave towards the east, denoting the Resurrection to come. We weep in our grief, but not unrestrainedly, as we know what happiness is to come.

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bogdan
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« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2011, 06:17:21 PM »

This is true. Cremation is forbidden for Orthodox Christians (except in places like Japan where burial is essentially impossible). A person who is cremated cannot be given an Orthodox funeral (unless it was done in ignorance or against the person's will, and even then it requires the bishop's express permission).

There are a number of reasons for this. For me, the most compelling is that it is plain sacrilege. We are both body and soul, combined in one single entity. To utterly dispose of the body through cremation, to us, is a denial of this reality. The body is not packaging, to be tossed away like so much debris. Man was created in the image and likeness of God, and that does not change simply because their soul has temporarily departed their body. It is not fitting that the image of God should be burned up, then violently pulverized into fine gravel. (I personally object to autopsy and embalming for the same reason—it's disrespectful to the body. Not all Orthodox agree on this detail, however.)

There is also the matter of the Resurrection. Salvation involves the entire universe, including our bodies which will be raised on the last day. While all humans will be raised regardless of their bodies' disposal, it is a symbolic denial of the resurrection to get rid of a body so there is basically nothing left.

Here are a couple of links with additional info:

http://orthodoxinfo.com/death/cremation.aspx
http://www.saintbarbara.org/faith/society/cremation.cfm
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