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Author Topic: Cremation, Organ Donation, Embalming, and Other Post Mortem Practices  (Read 5929 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: May 27, 2008, 05:07:12 PM »

Discussion split off from this thread:  Death of Pets and Neanterthals  -PtA


I know about cremation, but that is what the vet does after the pets die, unless you ask for their body instead, and we waited until memorial day to bury him so it wouldn't have been a good thing for our house if we had his body here, especially 8-9 days after he had passed.

Also, I know cremation isn't really an ok thing to do, but both of my uncles were cremated and I buried one of my Uncle's ashes in a plot we had purchased with the rest of our family. Even if you are cremated, will you still receive a body in the end?

If an Orthodox Christian essentially winds up as ashes after dying in a building accident or other tragedy (9/11 comes to mind), then that person receives an Orthodox funeral and will rise from the dead with a spiritual body, etc.

If an Orthodox Christian voluntarily chooses cremation, the Church denies that person a funeral and only Thrice-Holy Prayers are allowed at the funeral home.  Man was created from dust and made in the image of God; Man doesn't have the right to become dust and ashes by his own will since he forfeits the belief that Christ rose from the dead and appeared as Man and God simultaneously.
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« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2008, 05:52:50 PM »

Man doesn't have the right to become dust and ashes by his own will since he forfeits the belief that Christ rose from the dead and appeared as Man and God simultaneously.

Milarkey.

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« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2008, 06:16:50 PM »

Ozgeorge,

Quote
Milarkey.

Are you saying that Orthodox Christians can indeed be cremated, at least if they are under certain bishops?
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« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2008, 06:25:17 PM »

Αre you saying that Orthodox Christians can indeed be cremated, at least if they are under certain bishops?
That's not what I was saying, but in fact, our Bishop has allowed a funeral for someone who was cremated- I don't know the reason for the cremation.
What I think is "milarkey" is the notion that cremation is somehow an exercise of a non-existent "right" of a person "to become dust and ashes by his own will", and that somehow, doing so "he forfeits the belief that Christ rose from the dead and appeared as Man and God simultaneously."
There are plenty of Christians, (and indeed, even Roman Catholics now) who are cremated- are they all deniers of the Two Natures in One Hypostasis?
Burial rather than cremation is a Tradition, but lets not make the Traditions of men into God's Laws.
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« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2008, 06:53:51 PM »

I was thinking that if the body God gave us is destroyed by cremation, and we're somehow offending God by not keeping the body intact for burial, then does this also mean organ donation makes God angry as well, since we're taking the body apart? If Jesus can rise from the dead after being in the tomb three days after death, then God can surely cobble together our ashes to become new again. After all, nothing is impossible with God.... Undecided

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« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2008, 08:03:34 PM »

Quote
does this also mean organ donation makes God angry as well

That's a good question! I also wonder about embalming techniques, and how much this changes a body.
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« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2008, 10:48:53 AM »

i was curious about organ donation things as well...
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« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2008, 11:06:38 AM »

Embalming should be avoided where possible, imo.  In some states though you cannot avoid it.

I think organ donation is good!
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« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2008, 11:21:44 AM »

I was thinking that if the body God gave us is destroyed by cremation, and we're somehow offending God by not keeping the body intact for burial, then does this also mean organ donation makes God angry as well, since we're taking the body apart? If Jesus can rise from the dead after being in the tomb three days after death, then God can surely cobble together our ashes to become new again. After all, nothing is impossible with God.... Undecided

The reason the Church generally does not permit cremation is not that God won't be able to put you back together again, but that it is seen as a denial of the central role of the body in Christianity, which also undermines the centrality of the Incarnation of God to our salvation.

Given, then, that this is a question of intention, there must surely be a huge difference between total destruction of the body and using it to give life to others.
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« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2008, 11:53:50 AM »

If a body is cremated, it would probably be difficult to give it the final kiss in the funeral....
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« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2008, 12:23:05 PM »

I've been told there is one place where the Orthodox allow cremation by economy: Japan, where a scarcity of land for burial means it's required by law so the local Orthodox (who are under Moscow) have no choice; it's not their fault.
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« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2008, 02:22:54 PM »

Quote
a body is cremated, it would probably be difficult to give it the final kiss in the funeral....

You can give the ashes the final kiss! Just don't wear sticky chapstick or lipgloss! Grin
Ok...bad joke... Tongue
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« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2008, 08:19:21 PM »

I have been told that organ donation is okay because you are doing it  to help others.  I guess to be safe that you should ask your priest.
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« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2008, 08:34:53 PM »

You can give the ashes the final kiss! Just don't wear sticky chapstick or lipgloss! Grin
Ok...bad joke... Tongue
Yeah. Bad joke.
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« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2008, 10:53:49 PM »

When my uncle was dying in March, a very dear OCA priest in North Carolina provided me with information on how to prepare for his dying, death and burial.

Below is the link to the information he gave me. It really is helpful and eye opening in regard to proper Orthodox practice. It also teaches you what to look for when someone is in the process of dying months in advance. It is a great resource.

http://www.stnicholaspdx.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/12/saintnicholaschurchresourcesbooklet.pdf

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« Reply #15 on: June 13, 2008, 12:24:04 AM »

When my uncle was dying in March, a very dear OCA priest in North Carolina provided me with information on how to prepare for his dying, death and burial.

Below is the link to the information he gave me. It really is helpful and eye opening in regard to proper Orthodox practice. It also teaches you what to look for when someone is in the process of dying months in advance. It is a great resource.

http://www.stnicholaspdx.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/12/saintnicholaschurchresourcesbooklet.pdf


I was at the meetings a few years ago where we discussed this booklet and the issues raised therein.  I still have the hard copy.
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« Reply #16 on: June 13, 2008, 12:32:42 AM »

Peter,

Is this your parish? This booklet was so helpful for me. You all really should think about making it available to everyone.
I realize it was written with the state of Oregon's laws in mind. But the booklet could be adapted for a more general audience.

Anyway, thank you so much for the work you did on this resource. It was really appreciated at a time when it was hard to think clearly.

Tamara

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« Reply #17 on: June 13, 2008, 12:49:13 AM »

Peter,

Is this your parish? This booklet was so helpful for me. You all really should think about making it available to everyone.
I realize it was written with the state of Oregon's laws in mind. But the booklet could be adapted for a more general audience.

Anyway, thank you so much for the work you did on this resource. It was really appreciated at a time when it was hard to think clearly.

Tamara


Yes, this booklet is from my parish, but I had no role in helping put the book together.  IIRC, it was our parish nursing committee that compiled this work:  our priest addressing the pastoral issues of death and dying, and our physicians and attorneys providing the medical and legal perspectives.
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« Reply #18 on: January 09, 2010, 02:58:29 AM »

Sorry about resurrecting this thread (pun intended), but as might be expected, death issues have been on my mind of late.

If a body is cremated, it would probably be difficult to give it the final kiss in the funeral....

I'm not quite sure I understand, but then I'm not totally familiar with how a proper Orthodox funeral is supposed to go. Can't you give the final kiss at the viewing? Or if you choose to be present at the crematorium, can't you give the final kiss before the person is put into the retort?

Also, can anyone elaborate, preferrably with refences or quotes from Scripture/Fathers, on the idea that cremation is not allowed?
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« Reply #19 on: January 09, 2010, 03:56:24 AM »

The Final Kiss is a designated part of the funeral service, occurring after the Gospel and Litany. The coffin is opened, and the people file past to pay their last respects to the deceased. During this period, a series of verses are chanted, beginning with this one:

Come, let us give the final kiss, brethren, to the dead, as we give thanks to God; because he/she has left his/her family and is hastening to the grave, he/she has no further care for things of no moment, affairs of the much-wearied flesh. Where now are his/her relatives and friends? Now as we are parted let us pray that the Lord will give him/her rest.
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« Reply #20 on: January 09, 2010, 04:05:30 AM »

I have been to Orthodox Funerals where the coffin lid remained closed for the final kiss and the coffin was kissed.
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« Reply #21 on: January 09, 2010, 04:15:30 AM »

I have been to Orthodox Funerals where the coffin lid remained closed for the final kiss and the coffin was kissed.

In this country there has been a diversity of Greek practice.  During the 30 year regnum of Metropolitan Dionysios (Psiachas) -God rest him-  it was mandatory to have the lid closed at the funeral service and so the custom was to have a "Final Viewing" and a last kiss at the funeral home prior to the coffin being taken to the church for the funeral.

Now with the arrival of Metropolitan Amphilochios (Tsoukas) people are being encouraged to have coffins open in church.
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« Reply #22 on: January 09, 2010, 04:22:04 AM »

I have been to Orthodox Funerals where the coffin lid remained closed for the final kiss and the coffin was kissed.

This does happen, though far more frequently at Greek funerals, and generally at the request of the deceased's family, for whatever reason. By contrast, it is unusual for the coffin to remain closed at Russian funerals. Having attended plenty of both, I can say that an open coffin allowing a final goodbye seems to be a more personal and loving gesture, and leads to a greater sense of acceptance of the passing of a loved one. Allowing the body to be touched and kissed also fits in well with the Orthodox regard for the body as something "good", and not an object of squeamishness or shame. I have never found it morbid at all.
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« Reply #23 on: January 09, 2010, 05:55:30 AM »

I've been told there is one place where the Orthodox allow cremation by economy: Japan, where a scarcity of land for burial means it's required by law so the local Orthodox (who are under Moscow) have no choice; it's not their fault.

From my understanding this is correct. The Orthodox Church in Japan's official website states that the usual Orthodox custom is burial, but says nothing about cremation to the best of my knowledge. However, burial is extremely uncommon here and in fact my girlfriend and her parents were under the impression that it was required by law to cremate. We looked it up though and it is in fact not required by law to cremate. But given the exhorbant price of a burial I doubt many occur. I could ask my priest though how many people here are buried.
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« Reply #24 on: January 09, 2010, 07:26:55 AM »

As with most things, it seems like an issue that only your Priest/Bishop could answer satisfactorily. 

I remember when I was in the Catechumenate, one Priest in particular was quite crossed at my arrangements to have my body donated to science, and then cremated afterwards.
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« Reply #25 on: January 09, 2010, 11:07:20 PM »

2 questions:

1) why is it improper to embalm the body?

2) is it improper to donate your body to science?
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« Reply #26 on: January 09, 2010, 11:12:49 PM »

2 questions:

1) why is it improper to embalm the body?

2) is it improper to donate your body to science?

When the body is embalmed, the blood is just disposed of and not buried with the body.
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« Reply #27 on: January 10, 2010, 12:01:58 AM »

The body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and we should honour it.

To burn it, mutilate it, embalming, and the like is a desecration and profanation of the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Organ donation is something that I, as a christian, will never do, I will not allow anyone to desecrate and profanate His temple, which has been lend to me.

The horrendous practice of tearing a part of one Temple of the Holy Spirit, to place it on another, is not only an abomination, but something no christian should ever do. Transplanting organs is an unchristian act.

We don't have the right to do all those things with our bodies and the bodies of others, they are His Temples and we should honour and respect them.
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« Reply #28 on: January 10, 2010, 12:10:17 AM »

Preservation of Life= Greatest command.

So I would donate organs when dead to others. Alive I don't know, only to save life without a shadow of doubt.
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« Reply #29 on: January 10, 2010, 12:13:00 AM »

The body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and we should honour it.

To burn it, mutilate it, embalming, and the like is a desecration and profanation of the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

Organ donation is something that I, as a christian, will never do, I will not allow anyone to desecrate and profanate His temple, which has been lend to me.

The horrendous practice of tearing a part of one Temple of the Holy Spirit, to place it on another, is not only an abomination, but something no christian should ever do. Transplanting organs is an unchristian act.

We don't have the right to do all those things with our bodies and the bodies of others, they are His Temples and we should honour and respect them.
Can you cite any Fathers who lend support to your point of view?
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« Reply #30 on: January 10, 2010, 08:07:51 AM »

As far as I know Orthodox are only discouraged to donate hearts because it is the abode of the soul.
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« Reply #31 on: January 10, 2010, 09:15:51 AM »

Organ donation is something that I, as a christian, will never do, I will not allow anyone to desecrate and profanate His temple, which has been lend to me.

The horrendous practice of tearing a part of one Temple of the Holy Spirit, to place it on another, is not only an abomination, but something no christian should ever do. Transplanting organs is an unchristian act.

A number of Orthodox Churches have announced that organ donation is acceptable and commendable. According to Reverend Dr. Milton Efthimiou, Director of the Department of Church and Society for the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America, "The Greek Orthodox Church is not opposed to organ donation as long as the organs and tissue in question are used to better human life, i.e. for transplantation or for research that will lead to improvements in the treatment and prevention of disease."

Over at OrthodoxWiki thre's a nice article with more detail and such lines as The Church of Greece, however, stresses the importance of the act of willing donation by the donor as an act of love which is far more important than the act of receiving by one in need of organs, stating, “The spiritual benefit of the donor is greater than the biological gain of the recipient to the same extent as the soul is superior to the body. ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ (Acts 20:35 NKJ)”
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« Reply #32 on: January 10, 2010, 09:56:00 AM »

What a comforting thought that even after death we may be able to help others. When I die, I will no longer have any use for my eyes or my heart or my lungs or my liver or my kidneys. To give them for the love of Christ to someone who does need them may weave a blanket of love that may cover a few of my many sins at the Awful Judgement.
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« Reply #33 on: January 10, 2010, 04:48:20 PM »

No Peter, I don't, this is how I feel, and what I think about it.

CRCulver that's because the church you mentioned accepts the politically correct determinations. Now there is the official campaign worldwide to promote donation and transplant of organs, and it's not politically correct to say that's wrong, this is why churches like the one you mentioned create a justification to allow and promote organ donation among their followers, IMHO.

We are all in the palm of God, so to speak, and He decides when we die, and when we continue living.

Many try to make me feel guilty because I refused to donate a kidney to my brother, saying I could have saved his life, but I know he would have anyways even if I gave him the kidney. Things got to such extreme that I had to stop seeing some of my closest relatives for quite a while, and until this very same day, many resent my attitude, and rebuke me every time they can. Anger, and alcohol are very common excuses to rub it on my face.

I was there helping him pray for the forgiveness of sins, I was the one bringing the priest who gave him the mysteries for last time, and there is not one year I have failed to prepare the panikhidas, not one day I don't pray for his soul, but they don't see that Do they? It's as if this temporal life was more important than life eternal, as if being here was better than being in heaven.

Of course, there are some moments that I question myself about this, sometimes I have doubts, and get terrified thinking maybe they are right, sometimes the feeling of guilt eats me up, and I want to... well, do unchristian things, even the one unforgivable sin, because I feel like a monster, mostly because of the reaction of my close beloved ones, but I still believe as I said before in this thread, even when there are times I am filled with doubts, confusion, and terror, in general, I feel I did the right thing.







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« Reply #34 on: January 10, 2010, 05:17:26 PM »

I have been looking around for quotes from the Church Fathers about some of these topics, but have come up empty. The arguments of people who attempt to deal with these subjects seems to almost always boil down to "This is what I think" or "As far as I know, this is how we've always done it". Not that it matters much to me. If God would make a big issue over something like cremation, embalming, organ donation, etc., then I wouldn't serve/worship/respect such a God anyway.
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