Orthodox Funerals

Orthodox Funerals

The deceased is transported to the church for the funeral service. Traditionally, this transportation takes the form of a procession led by the cross. The priest walks in front of the coffin with the censer and leads the processors in the singing of the hymn Trisagion. Even if there will not be a traditional procession, the Trisagion should be recited at the end of the wake, before the body is brought to the church for the funeral service.

Once at the church, the coffin is opened. Near the head of the coffin should be placed a bowl of koliva, a dish of boiled wheat with honey, with a lit candle on top, symbolizing the cyclical nature of life and the sweetness of Heaven. A crown or wreath with the Trisagion printed on it is placed on the head and a small icon of Christ, the deceased’s patron saint, or a cross is placed in the deceased’s hand or in the casket. Lit candles should be distributed to all present and should remain lit throughout the funeral service.

Mourners and worshipers should stand throughout the funeral service, during which the priest will lead the Divine Liturgy, say prayers, lead the Dismissal, and recite “Memory Eternal.”  Holy Communion may also be offered. After the service, mourners are encouraged to approach the casket and “say goodbye” to the deceased and may kiss the icon or cross in the casket. After all mourners have had a chance to “say goodbye,” the casket is closed and removed from the church to the cemetery. At this point, the Trisagion should again be sung.

Once the deceased has been properly prepared, the deceased is brought to the church for the vigil service. Traditionally, the vigil/viewing always takes place in the church the night before the funeral service.

Only in the case that the deceased is Macedonian – the list of the below items are required.

  • 6 White Towels for the Pall Bearers
  • 2 White Towels for the Priest
  • 1 White Towel for the Candle
  • 1 White Towel for the White Cross
  • 1 White Single Bed Sheet, for inside Coffin
  • 2 Blankets, (for inside coffin and to wrap the coffin in before the coffin is buried)
  • Candle For the Church (Organise through the Church)
  • Taper candles for Church and Cemetery

The mourning period for Eastern Orthodox Christians lasts for forty days. Within those forty days, the third day, the ninth day, and the fortieth day all have special significance. After forty days, memorials are celebrated at three months, six months, nine months, one year, and on the anniversary of the death for at least seven years. For close relatives, the mourning period may last for one year, during which widows and widowers may wear only black clothing and will recite Panikhidas regularly. Close relatives may also stay home from work for one week and avoid social gatherings for two months.

When an Eastern Orthodox Christian is approaching death, a priest should be brought in to hear the final confession and administer Holy Communion to the dying person.

After the death, the priest will lead those present in prayers for the release of the soul.

Cremation is prohibited in the Eastern Orthodox Church.