Components to an Orthodox Funeral
Trisagion – brief (15 min) prayer service offered the evening before the funeral. The clergy can say a few words at this service. Light refreshments (coffee and cookies) are usually offered. This service usually takes place around 7:30 p.m.
All-Night Vigil—time when family and parishioners can sign-up to read psalms and pray in shifts from the close of the Trisagion to the beginning of the Funeral the next day.
Funeral – prayer service (1 hr) with hymns and readings and the opportunity at the end to venerate the body of the departed loved one and pay respects to the family. The priest may speak briefly at this service as well. This is often scheduled for 10 or 11 a.m. in the morning.
Interment – this is the brief service said at the gravesite. The interment can be public or private. Traditionally the interment is directly after the Funeral and before the Makaria, though for practicality some families choose to do the interment after the Makaria. Usually the procession to the cemetery involves a police-escorted motorcade.
Makaria – the luncheon offered by the family, either privately or publicly after the funeral. The makaria can be held at the church, at a restaurant or at a home. If the luncheon is at church, it is usually assumed that parishioners are invited. It is the family’s choice, however, to specify whether the church family is invited to the luncheon or not. The family has the opportunity to speak about the departed at this luncheon and decide if they would like to open that opportunity up to others. Traditionally in the Greek Orthodox Church, the main dish at the Makaria is broiled fish. This is because the first meal that the Lord Jesus ate with His disciples following His resurrection from the dead consisted of broiled fish and bread, as recorded in the Gospel of John 21:12-13. This meal is a reminder of Christ’s resurrection and His closeness to those who believe in Him.
The family can bring a picture of the deceased and a vase of flowers to put on display for the Trisagion and makaria. Slideshows, videos and other displays are also appropriate at the makaria.
The Saint Nicholas Parish extends its deepest condolences to the families who have suffered a loss. Funeral services are available for any of our Greek Orthodox brothers and sisters and we would suggest the following course of action given a death in the family:
- Contact the appropriate medical examiner or doctor to obtain a certificate of death
- Call the Church office at 734-332-8200 to speak with our priest
- Contact one of the local area funeral directors for scheduling a viewing and funeral service
In preparation for the funeral:
Choose the mortuary you will be using and contact them. (The office can recommend one to you.) Our tradition as Orthodox Christians is to bury the dead. The body of the deceased is respectfully placed in a casket and set in a grave. The body of the deceased, which St. Paul describes as “a temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19), is returned to the earth from which it was taken (Genesis 2:7).
In conjunction with the Church and mortuary set the day and times for:
The Trisagion the night before the funeral service is usually held at 7:30 pm; the Trisagion is a brief service, no more than ten minutes in length. During this service – as at the Funeral Service the next day – we pray that the Lord will grant forgiveness of sins and rest to soul of the deceased “in the bosom of Abraham (Luke 16:22-23) with Christ and the saints where “there is no pain no sorrow and no suffering” (Revelation 21:4).
** Please note: Funeral services are permitted on any day of the year, except for Sundays and Holy Friday.
The Orthodox Funeral Service is held at the Church (usually 10 or 11 AM) and is normally about an hour long. The Funeral Service consists primarily of the singing of verses from Psalm 119, a series of hymns on the meaning of life and death composed by St. John of Damascus (676-749 AD), Scripture readings from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians 4:13-18 and the Gospel of John 5:24-30 and a brief homily/eulogy by the priest. The service acknowledges the painful realities of human existence and the frailty of life, yet reminds those present of God’s infinite mercy and love. It asks that we “ponder how brief our life is” but also speaks of the power of the Risen Christ, the Kingdom of God, the resurrection of the dead and immortality. At the conclusion of the service, everyone present is invited to come forward to kiss an icon of the Resurrection and offer their final respects to the deceased. After the congregation and family have offered what the Funeral Service calls “the final kiss” to their loved one, the priest anoints the body of the deceased in the form of a cross with oil and earth reciting several verses from the Scriptures. During the anointing with oil, the priest says: “Wash me with hyssop and I shall be pure; cleanse me and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7); and then, with the placing of earth, he says: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof. The world and all who dwell on it belong to Him” (Psalm 24:1) and “You are dust and unto dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). **Only the priest offers the homily/eulogy during services in Church. Family members and friends who wish to speak and share memories may do so at the Makaria/ Reception.) Following the Funeral Service held at the Church the deceased is taken to the cemetery where another Trisagion is prayed at the graveside. The deceased is then lowered into his/her grave to await the Second Coming of Christ and, as we confess in the Creed at every celebration of the Liturgy, “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come.”
Many of our parishioners and their families request Memorial Donations to be designated to the Saint Nicholas Parish in commemoration of their loved one. Donations may be made towards any aspect of the Saint Nicholas Parish or to the discretion of our pries. Please notify our priest and the funeral director should a memorial donation request be desired.
A warm custom of our faith, the Makaria is a meal following the funeral service to comfort the family and to commemorate the life of the loved one lost. The Saint Nicholas Parish has a multi-purpose fellowship hall which are available for reservation and use for a Makaria.
After funeral service, memorial services are available to commemorate the memory of a loved one. Families holding memorial services should bring koliva to the memorial service or contact the Church office 734-332-8200 to request koliva from one of the groups of the Church. Please contact the Church office as soon as possible to schedule these memorials.
Typical Memorial Service Schedule
- On the 40th day
- At the one-year anniversary
- At the second-year anniversary
- At the third-year anniversary
- On the Saturday of Souls
Memorial Services may not be held on:
- All Holy Days of our Lord (including Christmas, Epiphany, Pascha, Transfiguration)
- From the Saturday of Lazarus to and including St. Thomas Sunday
- Pentecost Sunday
- August 15th
Because the Orthodox Faith affirms the fundamental goodness of creation, it understands the body to be an integral part of the human person and the temple of the Holy Spirit, and expects the resurrection of the dead. The Church considers cremation to be the deliberate desecration and destruction of what God has made and ordained for us. The Church instead insists that the body be buried so that the natural physical process of decomposition may take place. The Church does not grant funerals, either in the sanctuary, or at the funeral home, or at any other place, to persons who have chosen to be cremated. Additionally, memorial services with kolyva (boiled wheat) are not allowed in such instances, inasmuch as the similarity between the “kernel of wheat” and the “body” has been intentionally destroyed.