I have compiled all sorts of Russian Orthodox funeral rites for you:
Eastern Orthodox Churches
The following Churches are covered by this section:
?Antiochian Orthodox Church.
?Armenian Orthodox Church.
?Greek Orthodox Church.
?Russian Orthodox Church.
?Serbian Orthodox Church.
?Ukrainian Orthodox Churches.
?Other Orthodox Churches operating in Canada or represented in Canada
by members but for which Statistics Canada was unable to collect
statistically significant data in the 1991 national census.
??Orthodox Christians believe the body of the Christian is sacred,
since it was the temple of the Holy Spirit and will be restored at the
resurrection. The Orthodox funeral consists of three services:
oThe vigil, or Trisagion, after death, is usually conducted by a
priest at the wake. The people pray to Christ ?to give rest with the
Saints to the soul of Your servant where there is neither pain, grief,
nor sighing but life everlasting.? While the people pray for the soul
of the deceased, great respect is paid to the body.
oThe funeral service is continued at the church, where the body is
brought on the day of burial. Normally, the divine liturgy (Mass) is
celebrated. After the funeral service, the congregation offers its
farewell to the deceased.
oThe Trisagion is repeated at the graveside.
?Memorial services may be offered in the church on the 3rd, 9th and
40th days after death.
?Those who commit suicide are considered to have died outside the
Church and are not granted Church funeral rites.
The Order for the Burial of the Dead
?When an Orthodox believer dieth, his relatives straightway give
notice thereof unto the Priest, who, when he is come to the house in
which the remains of the dead man lie, and hath put on his priestly
stole (Epitrachelion), and hath placed incense in the censer, censeth
the body of the dead, and those present; and beginneth as usual:?
?The vigil of the dead should normally be fulfilled in the eucharistic
liturgy in which the faithful meet the Risen Lord, and all those who
are alive in him, in the glory of his Kingdom of Life. The fact that
the funeral vigil, in recent years, has lost its preparatory character
and has simply been transformed into the funeral service itself,
separated from the eucharistic liturgy, is a sad fact which allows
neither for the proper appreciation of the vigil itself nor for the
full Christian vision of the meaning of Iife, death and resurrection
in Christ, the Church and the Kingdom of God.
The fact that the divine liturgy, when it is preserved with the
funeral vigil, is served before it and is made into something
mournful, converted into a "requiem mass" offered "on behalf of the
dead," is also an innovation of recent centuries under old Roman
Catholic influence which further distorts the Christian understanding
and experience of death in Christ.?
The Office at the Parting of the Soul from the Body
This is a short description of a Russian Orthodox funeral in 2004.
A photo can be seen also, of the Bishop?s attire.
?The funeral was attended by a great many people and was very solemnly
performed: many knew that the reposed loved such services. Upon the
conclusion of the service and the bringing out of the coffin, Bishop
Peter conducted a litany at the hearse. Then many of the deceased's
relatives and friends headed for Holy Trinity Monastery in
Jordanville, where the burial was to be held the next day at the
monastic cemetery. After the burial, Priest Andre Papkov, the
President of the Church Music Committee of the Synod of Bishops,
invited all those in attendance to his home for a wake.
The late Alexander Borisovich deserves great praise not only for his
great work in the area of church music, for his love of divine service
and for his labors in the benefit of the Holy Church, but also for his
meek endurance of the cross bestowed upon him by the Lord in suffering
an excruciating illness for a long period of time.?
?Death is something that awaits all of us and yet we often wish to
avoid thinking about it. As Christians, we understand earthly death as
a gateway to life eternal. Preparing ourselves spiritually and making
practical arrangements in advance for our funeral is very important.
Here is some practical information about Orthodox rites and funeral
Why Funeral Planning is Important
?It helps give meaning to a person's life;
?It enables family and friends to come together to express feelings of
love, grief and sadness;
?It helps family and friends accept the reality of death, so that they
can overcome the emotional pain.
Funeral planning helps ease the pain. By planning now, you can relieve
stress and take away some burden on family and friends later.?
?Orthodox Burial Rites
The mystery, the human anguish, the sense of loss, the desire for
continued communion... these things have from antiquity found their
ritualized form of expression in each culture and age. Some of these
expressions have been sanctified in the liturgical life of the Church.
One needs only to call to mind the Church's orderly way of visiting
the graves of the departed (St. Thomas Sunday, the Day of Rejoicing)
and how we remember them liturgically.
Orthodox liturgical rites for the dying, the burial of the dead, and
the remembrance of the dead include the following:
?Office of the Parting of the Soul from the Body. The relatives or
close friends of the gravely ill should invite the priest (and a
chanter) to his bedside so that this moving and spiritually enriching
rite can be sung.
?Office of the Parting of the Soul from the Body, when a Person
Endures Prolonged Suffering. Together with the priest, we sing prayers
asking God to mercifully let His servant depart in peace.
?Office of the Burial of the Dead. Essentially, this is the Matins
service, with the canon and other hymns closely resembling those of
Great Saturday Matins - Christ's burial. Ideally, this rite should be
performed in the church temple, with the coffin positioned in the
middle of the temple. However, exceptions are possible and this rite
can be performed either at the funeral home's chapel or in the
cemetery chapel. In any case, contact your priest as soon as possible
or instruct your funeral director to do so on your behalf so that all
details of the funeral can be arranged in accordance with the
traditions of the Church.?
?The refrains given here are those used on the Holy Mountain. In
Russian use the refrain for the first two Troparia is, ?Give rest to
the soul of your servant fallen asleep?. The translation of the Canon
attempts, I hope without too much infidelity to the original, to
preserve Saint Theophanes? acrostic.? Scroll down to the funeral
service ? there is an entire service here.
Orthodox Funeral Rites
?The Funeral Rites
The Open Casket: In the order of the funeral service is the remains of
the deceased are to be blessed with holy water, the absolution prayer
is read and then placed in the hand of the departed, and at the end of
the service all the faithful are to proceed forward to give a final
kiss to the departed. None of this is possible with the casket closed.
These are all very powerful statements of our belief. To make all of
this impossible by having a ?closed casket funeral? is to impoverish
Even secular grief therapists, who have no religious background speak
of the importance of the bereaved seeing the body of the departed
loved one, and getting closure by saying their good-byes. Such a
practice has been part of the wisdom of the Church for twenty
The Psalms: Integral to the funeral service is the chanting of Psalms,
hymns found in the Old Testament. The introductory chant is Psalm 90
(91), which speaks of God?s firm promise of blessing and protection
for all who have placed their trust in Him. Three sets of verses with
refrains from Psalm 118 (119) speak of God?s great goodness and our
utter dependence upon Him and His Law, which guides us through all the
days of our life. Psalm 50 (51), a prayer of repentance, appeals to
God?s steadfast love, compassion and gracious mercy for cleansing and
?According to the ageless tradition and practice of the Russian
Orthodox Church (in the central part of Russia) this type of chain
ringing should be used only twice a year, on Great Friday and on Great
Saturday, on the day of Christ's death upon the Cross and on the day
of His burial. Experienced bell ringers are very careful to preserve
this tradition and never allow the sorrowful ringing of the bells on
this commemoration of the death and burial of our Lord and Savior to
be confused with the funeral ring of simple sinful mortals.? ?Reverse
chain ringing, or the funeral or burial ring, expresses sorrow and
grief over the loss of the deceased. It is rung in an opposite order,
as already mentioned above, from chain ringing, i.e. one stroke on
each bell from the smallest to the largest, after which all the bells
are rung once together. This sorrowful funeral chain ringing is always
followed by a short treble peal (trezvon), which expresses the joyous
Christian belief in the resurrection of the dead.
Since some bell ringing handbooks forbid treble peals at funerals,
which is not in keeping with Church practice, we shall explain
A slow reverse chain ringing of the bells, from the smallest to the
largest, symbolizes the various stages of a person's life on earth,
from infancy and youth to maturity and adulthood, and striking the
bell once signifies the severing of mortal life by death, when all
that has been acquired for a person's use during life is abandoned. As
is expressed in the funeral hymn, "All mortal things are vanity; they
do not endure after death. Riches do not last, and glory is left
behind. For when death comes, all these things are destroyed." (Or as
another hymn says, "In but a single moment death overtakes them.")
"Wherefore let us cry to Christ the Immortal: Give rest in the abode
of those who rejoice to him who has been taken from us."
The second part of the hymn refers directly to the joy of the future
life with Christ. This joy is also referred to by the short treble
peal (trezvon), which concludes the sorrowful reverse chain ringing.?
?In this wise, when the funeral procession approaches the temple there
is a mournful reverse chain ringing, and when the deceased is brought
into the temple, a treble peal is rung. After the funeral, as the
deceased is being brought from the temple, there is again a reverse
chain ringing, followed once more by a treble peal.
At the funeral and burial of priests, hieromonks, archimandrites and
bishops the reverse chain is rung somewhat differently. First the
large bell is rung 12 times, then follows the reverse chain ringing,
then the large bell is once more rung 12 times followed again by
reverse chain ringing and so on. As the body is carried into the
temple a treble peal is rung. A treble peal is also rung after the
reading of the Prayer of Forgiveness. As the body is carried from the
temple the aforementioned reverse chain is rung, and a treble peal is
rung after the body is lowered into the grave. In some places the
reverse chain is rung as usual.
In the "Book of Rites" it is noted that as Patriarch Joachim was being
carried from the temple there was rung a call to worship (blagovest')
changing from bell to bell at long intervals.?
Order of the Funeral Service (Greek Orthodox)
The Funeral Service of the Eastern Orthodox Church consists of hymns,
prayers, and readings from the Scriptures. The order of the Service is
? The Trisagion Service, chanted at the funeral home or in the church
on the evening before the funeral service and on the day of the
funeral, at the graveside following the funeral service, and for
? Selection of verses from Psalm 119 (LXX 118), in three stanzas:
(Part I -verses 1, 20, 28, 36, 53, 63; Part II -verses 73, 83, 94,
102, 112, 126; Part III -verses 132, 141, 149, 161 1 175, 176)
? Blessings (Evlogetaria): "Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your
statutes!" (Psalm 119:12).
? Kontakion and Hymns in each of the Eight Tones.
? Scripture Readings: (a) 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and (b) John 5:24-30.
? Small Litany, Prayers, and Dismissal.
? The Kiss of Peace and the anointing of the body.
? The chanting of the Trisagion Service at the cemetery.
Trisagion Service : Before the Funeral Service itself, the brief
Trisagion or ?Thrice-Holy? Service is served at the place where the
deceased lies. This service derives its name because it begins with
the familiar prayer, ?Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy
on us,? repeated three times. After the initial prayers, four hymns
are chanted asking the Lord to give rest to the deceased among those
who have already been perfected in the faith. A litany follows and is
concluded with a prayer that includes again the petition to the Lord
to grant rest to the deceased and asks for the forgiveness of sins.
Before the service is concluded, the faithful sing, ?May your memory
Psalm 119 : The Funeral Service begins with the chanting in three
stanzas of verses from Psalm 119 (118 in the Septuagint). In Greek
this is referred to as the Amomos (blameless) because the first words
are, ?Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of
the Lord.? Following the first stanza, a small litany is said with
petitions for the departed. If more than one priest is officiating,
this litany is said after each stanza.
Evlogetaria : Following the chanting of Psalm 119 are the Funeral
Praises, the Evlogetaria. These hymns are chanted in a solemn tone
which highlights there deep theological content. They are called
?Evlogetaria? (meaning hymns of praise) because each one is proceeded
by Psalm 119:12, ?Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your statutes.?
Their designation as the Funeral Evlogetaria distinguishes them from
the Resurrectional Evlogetaria that are chanted during the Sunday
Matins service. For the Funeral Service for a member of the clergy,
two additional Evlogetaria are included.
Kontakion and Hymns of the Eight Tones : At the conclusion of the
Evlogetaria, the Kontakion of the Funeral Service is chanted:
?With the Saints give rest, O Christ, to the soul of Your servant
where there is no pain, nor sorrow, nor suffering, but life
During the chanting of this hymn, the priest censes the deceased and
the faithful, as well as the Holy Altar Table and icons. Following
this are chanted the very moving hymns known as the Idiomela. Each
hymn has its own particular melody and are sung in the order of the
eight modes or tones of Byzantine chant. These hymns and their
changing melodic modes express the mixed emotions of grief and
consolation that come from the loss of a loved one and in our
affirmation of our hope in God?s promise of rest for the departed and
Scripture Readings : In addition to the prayers and hymnody, the
Funeral Service also includes two Scripture lessons, one from the
Apostolos (the liturgical book that contains the lections from the
Book of Acts and the Epistles) and another from the Evangelion (the
liturgical book of the four Gospels arranged in pericopes or
lections). The assigned readings for the service are I Thessalonians
4:13-17 and John 5:24-30. The Apostolos and the Evangelion also list
several alternate readings which include from the Apostolos I
Corinthians 15:47-57; I Corinthians 15:20-28; Romans 14:6-9; and from
the Evangelion John 5:17-24; John 6:35-39; John 6:40-44; and John
6:48-54. All of these passages reflect the Church?s belief in the
reality of Christ?s death and Resurrection and of the benefits that we
derive from them, namely, the resurrection of our body on the last
day, and the promise of incorruption and immortality.
Prayers and Dismissal : Following the readings, the small litany that
was said earlier is repeated, and priest offers a prayer for the
repose of the deceased. At this point a special prayer is added if a
hierarch is officiating and/or the funeral is for a member of the
clergy. The priest, addressing Christ who defeated death, asks the
?God of spirits and of all humankind? to grant rest to the soul of the
deceased, ?now asleep in a place of light, a place of renewed life, a
joyous place?.? The Dismissal prayer of the Funeral Service once
again introduces the hope of the resurrection as the priest calls upon
the intercessions of the all-holy Theotokos, the holy Apostles, the
holy Fathers, the three Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and of
the holy and righteous Lazarus, the friend of Christ who was raised
from the dead by our Lord. After this prayer the faithful sing, ?May
your memory be eternal.?
The Kiss of Peace and Anointing : Following the dismissal prayer comes
the moment of our final farewell greeting to the deceased. As the
people come forward to look upon the deceased, the choir or chanters
sing hymns that invite them to offer a kiss to the one who has reposed
in the faith while they pray for the Lord to give the person rest.
The kiss given to the deceased is an expression of love for the
departed, but it is also an affirmation that the one who has fallen
asleep is worthy of the fulfillment of God?s promises having lived a
life of faith and known the grace of God.
After the people and the family have come and offered their final
greeting, the priest anoints the body in the sign of the Cross with
oil and earth. As the priest anoints with the oil he says: ?Sprinkle
me with hyssop and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter
than snow? (Psalm 51:7). As the priest anoints the body with earth,
he says: ?The earth is the Lord?s, and the fullness thereof; the world
and all that dwell in it (Psalm 24:1). You are dust and to dust you
shall return? (Genesis 3:19).
At the Cemetery : Following the Funeral Service, the priest and people
proceed to the cemetery. Here, the priest chants the Trisagion and
the body is committed to the grave to await the return of our Lord and
the resurrection of the dead.
?As soon as someone has reposed, immediately call or inform a
priest, so he can read the Prayers appointed to be read over all
Orthodox Christians after death.
Try, if it be possible, to have the funeral in Church and to have the
Psalter read over the deceased until the funeral.
Most definitely arrange at once for the serving of the forty-day
memorial, that is, daily commemoration at the Liturgy for the course
of forty days. (NOTE: If the funeral is in a church where there are no
daily services, the relatives should take care to order the forty-day
memorial wherever there are daily services.) It is likewise good to
send contributions for commemoration to monasteries, as well as to
Jerusalem, where there is constant prayer at the holy places.
Let us take care for those who have departed into the other world
before us, in order to do for them all that we can, remembering that
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy."
?But apart from the canonical, there is yet another side to the
question. In our rite of burial there is manifested internally a
humble submission to the decision of God: "Dust thou art, and unto
dust thou shalt return" (Gen. 3:19). It is completely understandable
that the Masons, who have a pantheistic ideology, take exception to
this law of God. Deifying mankind, they wish to cover up the law of
corruption which bears witness to the downfall of human nature, when
man beholds "our beauty, fashioned after the image of God ...
disfigured, dishonored, bereft of form."  On the contrary, the
entire ecclesiastical rite of burial was fashioned with the burial of
the departed Christian in mind, in fulfilment of the judgment God
pronounced over Adam: "For out of earth were we mortals made, and unto
the earth shall we return again."  "Come ye, therefore, let us kiss
him who was but lately with us; for he is committed to the grave; he
is covered with a stone; he taketh up his abode in the gloom, and is
interred among the dead."  The appearance of the dead body and its
burial should be for our instruction: "As we gaze upon the dead lying
before us, let us all discern the image of our own final hour. For he
vanisheth ... like the grass he is cut down; swathed in sackcloth, he
is covered with earth."  These verses (stikhiri) speak of decay in
detail, calling upon us to pray for the dead and reminding us at the
same time that "Vanity and corruption, of a truth, are all ... the
things of life ... They that once were alive are now cast down into
the grave." 
But the full decay of the body?"all comeliness stripped off, dissolved
in the grave by decay, by worms in darkness consumed" ?is the
normal appearance of sinful people.
In general, Christians are called to a spiritual perfection which
should sanctify their very bodies. The promise has been given to the
faithful children of the Church: "But as many as received Him, to them
He gave power to become the children of God" (Jn. 1:12). To the
faithful it is said that they are "heirs of God" (Gal. 4:7), "joint
heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). Calling to mind in connection with
these sayings that the Lord is called "King of kings and Lord of
lords" (Rev. 19:16) and "God of gods" (Ps. 49:1), St. John of Damascus
writes that "surely also the saints are gods, and lords and kings ...
Now, I mean gods, and lords and kings not in nature, but as rulers and
masters of their passions, and as preserving a true likeness to the
divine image according to which they were made" . According to the
same holy Father, "death is rather the sleep of the saints than their
death. 'For they have labored forever and shall live to the end' (Ps.
48:8-9)."  And the very remains of the saints, who are the
children of God and joint heirs with Christ, remain sources of grace,
at times being preserved incorrupt and even giving forth myrrh.
Even in the Old Testament miracles were worked through the relics
veneration of the saints, an example of which is the prophet Elisha,
of whom it is said that "after his death his body prophesied" (Eccles.
48:13), and through whose relics life was restored to a dead man (IV
Kings 13:20-21). Even more numerous are the signs of grace from the
relics of New Testament saints. In burying the bodies of the departed,
the Church leaves it to the will of God either to commit them to
natural decay in accordance with the judgment pronounced upon Adam, or
to set aside the order of nature and preserve the bodies of the saints
incorrupt, as a clear sign that the righteous souls that inhabited
them "are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them"
(Wis. Sol. 3:1). To cremate bodies would mean to reject so ,precious a
sign of grace, which serves as a fountain of salvation "pouring forth
manifold blessings." 
Thus the order of burial which we have at present has been
sanctified by ancient custom and, as such, is protected by the sacred
canons; it is consonant with the whole spirit of the Orthodox teaching
concerning man, and is deeply edifying. On the contrary, cremation of
bodies is unacceptable from the Church's point of view, as an
innovation which has come from an infected source, which, in the, case
of its implementation, would deprive us of the incorrupt bodies of the
holy saints of God.?
?A further explanation of the term "Memorial Service" for the Greek
Orthodox Church and the Russian Orthodox Church: In the Russian
Orthodox Church the "Memorial Service" is called: "Panikhida", and
the general funeral service is called the "Parastasa" (Requiem
Service). In the Greek Orthodox Church the "Memorial Service" is
called: "Mnimosino-Memorial", the Funeral Service is called "Kithia",
and the burial at the cemetery is called "Endaphiasmo" , which
concludes with a "Trisagion" , which is a brief memorial service.?
?The candle is the Light of Christ. The flame rises up as do our
prayers, and symbolically we, too, rise up to meet the Lord in Heaven
(this is not to say that Heaven is a geographical location, simply
that a movement upwards symbolizes rising towards the ultimate
perfection and holiness to which God invites us and for which He has
The apple and orange (other fruits may be used) may represent the
fruit of the garden of Eden - Paradise to which Christ by His
Resurrection has returned us.?
?"Parastas" literally translated means "A standing service" and
"Panachida" means "All-night service."
In former times, the Church prayed all night before the funeral of a
Christian who had reposed in the Lord.
This tradition was later taken over by the practice of reading the
Psalter over the body.
Initially, family members and monks took turns reading the Psalter
once over the body. They then read it four more times during the night
and before the funeral.
Today, the Parastas and Panachida are simply the longer and shorter
versions of the same funeral service.
Panachida is a short service usually conducted in the funeral home for
two nights before the third day of the funeral. The priest comes in
with his cantor, sings the service that lasts about 10-15 minutes and
then addresses the people, saying something about the deceased and
informing everyone about the time and place of the funeral.
The Parastas is the longer (actual) funeral service that is held in
Church on the day of burial and its words and hymns are so beautiful
and richly meaningful that they never fail to bring tears to one's
?In my lengthy experience (32 years) as a Ukrainian Orthodox priest
I have noted that our people prefer to have the casket lowered after
the prayers have been done and the grave has been sealed. There is
even a most appopriate hymn that is sung as this is done: "Zemle
rozstupysia...." (rough translation: "Be open, o earth, and receive
the body that has been created out of you. That which was in the image
of God, the Creator has received, and do you receive your body.")
There is a certain closure about this as well as the symbolism of a
reunion between a mother (earth) and her child (the earthly body) that
can be quite comforting as one absorbs it (this may not happen on the
consciours cognitive level - but that is not the only level on which
?Pascha services and morning offices are conducted at night in the
Orthodox Church for a very important and mystical reason.
Christ comes to us "as a thief in the night," that is, when we will
least expect him.
We will have this experience twice in our existence (which is eternal).
The first time will be when we experience our own personal repose.
Who may predict exactly when one will leave this Earth? ?
?We face away from the darkness (west is where the sun sets) -
towards the light (it rises in the east). So it is with the
orientation of our temples.
So it is with the way we do Holy Mysteries of Baptism and Matrimony.
The bodies of our blessed dead are placed facing the east in the
temple at a funeral - except for priests and bishops who are placed
facing the congregation because by their deaths they are preaching
their last earthly sermon to the faithful. Thus when we bury our dead
facing the East it is so that they face the light.?
?? The Church has no specific rules determining the length of time
between death and the burial. Interment varies according to the
climate, civil ordinances, customs, and circumstances, and may be held
immediately following death, or after a number of days.
? The hour of interment is also not fixed; it may be at any time
during the day to accord with cemetery regulations and parish needs.
? It is assumed that, unless the death was an accidental or untimely
one, the priest has been ministering to an aging person, or one
suffering from some ailment or sickness, and has prepared the person
for death through participation in the Mysteries of Penance and Holy
? The priest should read the Prayers at the Departing of a Soul and
passages from Holy Scripture. Merely to be present at the bedside of
one?s spiritual child and not minister with audible prayer is unworthy
of the priesthood.
? If the priest was not at the bedside of the dying parishioner at
the time of death, he must make contact with the family, offering to
assist them through the time of grieving and mourning.
? The Service for the Departed (panikhida) is sung on the eve of the
burial whether the body is in the temple, funeral home, or elsewhere.
? The body of the departed may be brought into the temple at any time
prior to the time of the Funeral Service, whether days before or on
the day thereof.?
The Funeral Service
The funeral service itself is a longer service based around Psalm
119 which in the Orthodox Church is the Resurrectional Psalm. After
the usual beginning, the priest chants verses from Psalm 119 which are
interspersed with refrains such as ?Have mercy on Thy servant who has
Following the Psalm, the choir will sing various hymns which relate to
the departed interspersed with litanies. Following this, there is the
chanting of the Canon, which is a longer poetic hymn based on Biblical
themes. This particular Canon is used during the Easter service and
talks about the resurrectional prefigurement found in the Old
Testament. There are some more hymns and litanies.
Following the Canon there is the famous hymns written by St. John of
Damascus which speaks about death and give exhortation to those living
to follow a righteous life. It is often said that the priest speaks
for the departed to those living.
Following this, there is the Beatitudes which shows the living on how
to live their lives. This is followed by the Epistle and Gospel
reading which is much more resurrectional in its tone. The service now
begins to end as the priest brings the people forward for what is
called ?The Last Kiss? as the family and friends bid farewell to the
departed. The priest reads a famous hymn about saying farewell.
The service is concluded with the priest offering absolution to the
departed, anointing them with holy oil and closing the casket. As the
casket is moved from the Church, the choir and people sing ?Holy God,
Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us? as a sign of remembrance
to the power of God.?
?At one stage we discussed whether the boys should go. There is
much uninhibited expression of grief at Orthodox funerals, Dr B said,
and was worried that they might find it very disturbing.?
?Mourning is acceptable by both the folk and the religious traditions.
Tears are not signs of weakness but an issue of necessity for the
avoidance of morbid effects on the bereaved. According to cultural
tradition the tears of grief are so bitter and poisonous that:
if they fall on the black earth, grass will never grow,
if they fall in the river, the river will go dry,
if they fall in the sea all the ships will sink
and if I hold them in my heart I'll come to meet you very quickly.
Both at the funeral itself and at subsequent memorial rituals,
mnemossina,which take place at clearly defined intervals of decreasing
frequency, a specific offering is made:
Kolliva, boiled wheat often mixed with nuts and sugar offered by the
bereaved, after it is blessed by the priest, to everyone present at
mnemossina is another feature of the ritual filled with symbolic
representations. Wheat and nuts are seeds which when fallen on good
earth apparently disintegrate (die) but eventually germinate
(resurrect) into new life. Accordingly kolliva act as a reminder and a
'proof' of the resurrection into a new life to follow the death.
And so, in a way, we are back with the sunflower.?
?both my parents' funerals were held at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral
in Ennismore Gardens. I found the service and the words intensely
moving, so much more so than any I've attended of other denominations.
Standing round the (open) coffin holding candles, while a few singers
chanted in thrilling harmony and the bearded Christ-like priest said
those words ("...who has fallen asleep...."), translated for our
benefit, and when it was over he sat with us and held our hands.?
?A Recipe for Koliva. This is a food mentioned in various articles
on this page. It is used for Commemoration services for the dead.
Phyllis Onest explains that the origin of this tradition: "On the
first Saturday of the Great Fast we remember the miracle of St.
Theodore of Tyre in 362 AD with koliva. The Emperor, Julian the
Apostate, had the food in the market sprinkled with the blood of
animals sacrificed to pagan gods in order to defile the first week of
the Great Fast. Patriarch Aphdoxios of Constantinople appeared to the
saint in a dream warning him of the emperor's scheme. St. Theodore
told the people to cook the wheat they had at home rather than
grinding all of it into flour. Thus, they did not buy anything in the
market and avoided the tainted food."
?K. K. Loginov writes of the rituals and beliefs which accompany
the end of life in the context of family ritual in general (Loginov
1993). I. A. Kremleva is the author of a number of accounts of funeral
ritual among Old Believers as well as Russian Orthodox and has also
written on the methodology of recording such material (Kremleva 1989).
The past decade, with its resurgence of interest in religion after the
collapse of the Soviet Union, has seen the publication of a number of
works dealing with religious, philosophical and sociological aspects
of death on a wider level (Lavrin 1993; Ryazantsev 1994; Demichev and
Uvarov 1998), as well as advice and information about Orthodox funeral
practice for Russians who have lost touch with their Church (Kuz'menko
However, there are still very few generalised accounts of funeral
customs and beliefs among the Russians, so that the findings of
individual researchers and groups conducting fieldwork in different
localities play an important part today in formulating an overall
picture. In addition, it should be said that until recently, because
of the restrictions on travel imposed on foreigners before the
collapse of the Soviet Union, opportunities for west European scholars
to study this aspect of Russian culture in the field have been
?Russia: Bells and Black Bread
In Russia, Russian Orthodox church bells ring one note to call
worshippers to service, a low-to-high note sequence for baptisms, and
a high-to-low note series for funerals. Funerals are generally held on
the third day after someone dies. On that day, family and friends
gather for a special memorial dinner. Then, on the ninth day, when the
soul is believed to leave the body, a special church service and
dinner are held. On the fortieth day, the soul is said to depart for
the other world, and a service and dinner party are again held. At
each party, a glass of vodka covered by a piece of black bread is left
for the deceased, in a reversal of the traditional Russian custom of
breaking black bread when meeting someone for the first time. Though
traditionally, the body lays uncovered in state for the three days
until burial, cremations are becoming more popular as a less expensive
The Orthodox Church (Russian, Greek, Syrian, Coptic, Armenian), RC 012
?What is a parastas service??
HOW TO READ THE EPISTLE AT THE DIVINE LITURGY
?During most of the 20th century, the Russian Orthodox Church had
to coexist with deeply atheist government of Soviet Union. Although
freedom of religious expression was formally declared by one of the
first decrees of revolutionary government in January 1918, both the
Church and its followers were deeply disadvantaged and sometimes
persecuted. Prior to the Russian Revolution, there were some 54,000
functioning parishes and over 150 bishops. During the 1920-30s, most
churches were razed or converted into secular buildings; over 50
thousand priests were either executed or sent to labor camps ( many of
these suffered as part of the Great Purge of 1936-37 ).
By 1939, there were less than 100 functioning parishes and only four
bishops. During World War II, the religious persecution in Soviet
Union became less pronounced. Years 1944-45 saw the reopening of
several seminaries that were closed in 1918. After the death of Joseph
Stalin in 1953, relations between the Church and the state started to
deteriorate again. Until Perestroika, public expression of religious
beliefs - christian or otherwise - was frowned upon; known churchgoers
would be unlikely to become members of the Communist Party, which, in
turn, severely limited their career opportunities. All Soviet
university students were required to take courses in "Scientific
Atheism". Finally, well into 1970-80's many priests of Russian
Orthodox Church, as well as other churches in Soviet Union, were
secretly employed by the KGB. At the same time, large number of people
remained overtly or covertly religious. In 1987 in Russian Federation
between 40% and 50% of newborn babies (depending on the region) were
baptized and over 60% of all deceased received Christian funeral
?Russian Orthodox churches differ in design from most western-type
churches. First, their interiors are very highly decorated, with
frescos of many kinds covering every square centimetre of the
interior. Some of these are of saints, others of more commonplace
scenes. One particularly striking feature of many Russian churches is
that the interior reaches all the way up into the dome or domes of the
church (most Orthodox churches have the shape of domes). On the
ceiling of many churches (inside the main dome in a domed church), an
icon of Christ as Pantokrator (Ruler of All) is almost always there.
Pantokrator icons emphasize Christ's humanity and divinity
simultaneously, signifying that Christ is a man and yet is also God
without beginning or end.
There are no pews. Most churches are lit with candles rather than
electric light. This means that in many places the frescos and so on
still suffer from the ill effects of smoke. Virtually all churches
have many votive candle stands in front of the icons. It is customary
for worshippers to purchase candles in church stores, light them up
and place them on the stands ( this ritual signifies asking the saint
for a favor or commemorating a dead friend or relative ).All Russian
Orthodox churches have an iconostasis which separates the main body of
the church from the altar. Covered with icons, it is intended to stop
physical sight, but to allow the spiritual sight of the worshippers
The colours of the domes of a Russian Orthodox church having meaning, as follows:
? Black - submission. Black domes are found in monasteries.
? Green - the Holy Trinity.
? Blue - the Spirit of God.
? Gold - Jesus. Gold domes on top of tall drum-like towers also
intentionally look like candles from a distance.
Silver domes are also found, but these simply indicate that the dome
is modern, and has not been painted.
The number of domes also has meaning:
? One on its own indicates Jesus.
? Three indicates the Holy Trinity.
? Five indicates Jesus and the Four Evangelists.
The crosses on top of the domes have a crescent shape with the horns
upturned as part of their base. This is actually an anchor, indicating
that the church is a ship of faith in the sea of vanity.
Gold is God's colour. When used as the background of an icon it is not
flat, but is instead intended to be of infinite depth. Icons are drawn
in a flat, non-perspective style. This is intentional, not just a
reflection on the skills of the icon painters. The flat style of the
painting allows the icon to be viewed equally by all, regardless of
?According to most religions, coffins are kept closed during the
burial ceremony. In Eastern Orthodox funerals, the coffins are
reopened just before burial to allow loved ones to look at the
deceased one last time and give their final farewells.?
In case you read Russian, this is the ?Official? Russian Orthodox site
Other funeral information
Several Divine liturgies can be found on this page:
A glossary of Russian Orthodox terminology
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