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Author Topic: funerals and the body after death  (Read 838 times) Average Rating: 0
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Isadore
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« on: January 13, 2012, 07:27:31 AM »

I recently watched a documentary on Mount Athos and I was interested in how the monks dealt with burial. They buried their dead for a few years, dug up the bones, and put the bones in an ossuary, where the bones were treated very casually. Being a convert I have never been to an Orthodox funeral, only Catholic ones, and disturbing a grave at all is a big deal. How are Orthodox funerals different and how is the body viewed? The only thing I really know about is incorruptibility...
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« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2012, 05:57:45 PM »

Exhumation and the placing of bones in an ossuary was an ancient custom in many parts of the world, including in countries and regions where Orthodoxy was predominant. The grave could then be reused. It was not restricted to monastic circles - it was routine for laymen as well. In some places, it was still being done a couple of generations ago.
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« Reply #2 on: January 13, 2012, 06:01:03 PM »

Exhumation and the placing of bones in an ossuary was an ancient custom in many parts of the world, including in countries and regions where Orthodoxy was predominant. The grave could then be reused. It was not restricted to monastic circles - it was routine for laymen as well. In some places, it was still being done a couple of generations ago.

Not just in Orthodox lands, there are plenty of ossuaries in England and France also.
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« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2012, 06:31:44 PM »

Exhumation and the placing of bones in an ossuary was an ancient custom in many parts of the world, including in countries and regions where Orthodoxy was predominant. The grave could then be reused. It was not restricted to monastic circles - it was routine for laymen as well. In some places, it was still being done a couple of generations ago.

And it is done with respect and liturgical ceremony.
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« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2012, 08:57:26 PM »

I think this is what I'd like to have done with my bones after there are no longer any family or friends to remember me.  Why not let someone else have that time with their family?  Land is getting scarcer and scarcer. . . I think it's absolutely brilliant - and doesn't hurt my soul thinking about like cremation does.
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« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2012, 12:13:49 AM »

Exhumation and the placing of bones in an ossuary was an ancient custom in many parts of the world, including in countries and regions where Orthodoxy was predominant. The grave could then be reused. It was not restricted to monastic circles - it was routine for laymen as well. In some places, it was still being done a couple of generations ago.

Not just in Orthodox lands, there are plenty of ossuaries in England and France also.

They are popular when you don't have all that much land to bury thousands of people.
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« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2012, 01:51:10 AM »

Orthodox funerals aren't in the context of a divine liturgy, unless you are a priest or a bishop.  They usually start with a longer prayer service for the departed in the place of the viewing the night before the funeral (these are called parastas).  In the morrow you go back to the funeral home and sing a shorter prayer service for the dead, panachida.  You then take the person to the church and have a funeral service.  Usually eulogies are not given as the attention is given to praying for the person's soul and focusing on God not on the individual.  The casket is usually open.  Various customs of what to place in the casket exist.  We usually just put the  hand cross on the person.  At the end I usually read the Prayers at the last kiss, which is terribly beautiful and extremely emotional at the same time.  Everyone comes up and kisses the hand cross in the casket or what not and gives their last respects.  Then we go to the graveyard and sing a little service and do the dust to dust and holy water blessing, priest seals the grave that it shouldn't be open until we rise again.  Then everyone goes and eats usually pierogies, haluski, halupki, ham, cake, coffee.  
It's not a 45 minute event and the prayers are absolutely beautiful.  The Orthodox funeral is usually how most non-Orthodox are introduced to Orthodoxy and it sticks with them just about forever.  
We sing "Memory Eternal" in Ukrainian/Slavonic Vichnaya Pamyat and the style we sing it in is very haunting.  
I usually sing the funerals with the priest as the cantor/diak and server but we use galacian, a form of Western Ukrainian simple plain chant or prostopinije which is another Western Ukraine/Slovakian form of simple congregational singing.  

here is a panachida, it's almost exactly how we sing it, albeit with more English.  Same tones, you have to fast forward about to minute 2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tMIKWyK6ZA
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« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2012, 01:54:05 AM »

We use this prayer too, it's one of the oldest recorded prayers,

Priest: O God of spirits and of all flesh, You have trampled upon death and have abolished the power of the devil, giving life to Your world. Give rest to the soul of Your departed servant (Name) in a place of light, in a place of repose, in a place of refreshment, where there is no pain, sorrow, and suffering. As a good and loving God, forgive every sin he (she) has committed in thought, word or deed, for there is no one who lives and does not sin. You alone are without sin. Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your word is truth.

Priest:For You are the resurrection, the life, and the repose of Your departed servant (Name), Christ our God, and to You we give glory, with Your eternal Father and Your allholy, good and life‑giving Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

People:Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen

Source:http://www.goarch.org/chapel/liturgical_texts/memorialservice

We are not permitted to be cremated as well.
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« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2012, 07:51:32 AM »

Orthodox funerals aren't in the context of a divine liturgy, unless you are a priest or a bishop. 

I've seen coffins of the non-clergy people on Liturgies that were followed with funerals.
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« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2012, 09:56:30 AM »

I attended a funeral this week (OCA) and the service lasted about 2 hours, with another hour taking the body to the cemetery and saying farewell. One thing that struck me is that the coffin is solemnly sealed, three times, by the priest until the resurrection. I wonder how the disinterring of bones jives with this sealing.
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« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2012, 12:07:02 AM »

Orthodox funerals aren't in the context of a divine liturgy, unless you are a priest or a bishop.  

I've seen coffins of the non-clergy people on Liturgies that were followed with funerals.

The churches near me share share a lot of customs that you have in Poland.  We had liturgies and funerals until not that many years ago.  I know of a church where they will do a liturgy and funeral in staroslovensko if you would have permission from the bishop.
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« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2012, 12:29:11 AM »

On a related, yet seperate note, in the opening scene of Dr. Zhivago, Yuri's mother is buried. The body is brought open casket to the grave, and the casket is not sealed until it is laid in the grave. Also, the entire casket is covered in velvet.

I've never seen anything like this, and I've been to several Orthodox funerals.

I was wondering if this was a Russian practice, and in our American skittishness for dead bodies we have abandoned this tradition?

Obviously, this was a work of fiction, but I was wondering if there was any truth to it? I also found the vestments of the clergy interesting in that they were Lenten, and they weren't wearing full vestments.

The words of the priest aren't anything I ever recall hearing at a funeral, but granted I don't have the services memorized! lol

Here is the scene I am describing.
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« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2012, 01:15:21 AM »

Well for real our custom is to stay with the casket until it is lowered and they start to fill in the grave, I don't know why but it is how it has been done forever (sayeth the babas).  Remember we use caskets these days and the graveyard is lots of time many miles/kilometres from the church so we can't carry it that far. 
I've seen more than one casket lowered by straps.  It's what happens when the thing you wind to lower the casket down breaks. And for some reason every funeral in our graveyard it has to be either raining, it's always very windy and either that or very very very very very cold.
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« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2012, 05:46:03 PM »

The words of the priest aren't anything I ever recall hearing at a funeral, but granted I don't have the services memorized! lol

Here is the scene I am describing.

We sang these words last week. There's quite a bit of stuff about worms and stuff too.
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« Reply #14 on: January 16, 2012, 07:12:55 AM »

Wow, thank you for all of the information and links Smiley
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