Greek Orthodox Community of East Vancouver
FUNERALS & MEMORIALS
"I believe in the Resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come."
Death and Joyful Sorrow
Orthodox Christians begin their journey to the Kingdom of God with their Baptism and Chrismation. During these sacraments, we "die to the world and resurrect" in a new life in Christ. Throughout our lives, we are called to be faithful to the Gospel, loving God and our neighbour. As we approach the end of life on this earth, we can take comfort in the fact that Jesus is "the resurrection and the life", who promises all faithful believers that, "even though they die, they will live" eternally in the Kingdom of God (John 11:25).
The Prayer Services of the Church are there to help us express our joyful sorrow in a Christian manner. They allow us to weep, to see the frailty of life, and to place our hope in the Risen Christ, who tramples down death by His death and gives life to those in the tombs. Specifically, we have the:
Trisagion service - prayer service that can be held anywhere (e.g. the grave site)
Mnimosinon/Memorial service – held inside the Liturgy at the end of the service
With this in mind, we go to the practical aspects – firstly, in preparation of your loved one passing away, and then after they fall asleep in the Lord.
Before a Relative Passes Away
1. Call Father for final prayers and Holy Communion.
2. Contact the Funeral Home as soon as possible to begin arrangements. This allows more time for grief and less time for paperwork after a loved one’s passing.
As many people have asked us for suggestions as to who are familiar with our Orthodox traditions, we would recommend:
Tony Hicks and the staff at Dignity Memorial Mount Pleasant Chapel
Deacon Zane and Ancient Burials
3. If the cemetery plot has not already been purchased, please discuss with the Funeral Home. You can also contact the Hellenic Community of Vancouver at 604-266-7148 for information on their plots at Valley View Cemetery. Please mention the funeral will be at our Church.
When a Relative Passes Away
You may call the Priest to say the first Trisagion where the person has passed (hospital, etc.). This is not a mandatory step, however.
Contact the Funeral Home to transport your loved one from where they passed away.
If the death happened outside of business hours, contact the Funeral Home in the morning to book an arrangements appointment.
There is usually a lengthy wait for funeral dates. We recommend you make the appointment as quickly as possible, so not to delay the funeral longer than necessary
Funeral Home Appointment
1. The Funeral Home will coordinate the Trisagion, Funeral service and cemetery dates with the Church. These dates must be confirmed with the Church office before the funeral is considered officially booked. There are certain dates that funerals are not allowed in our Church calendar. For example, no funerals can occur on Sundays.
There have been enough instances where Funeral Homes have booked and published the funeral dates without confirming. The Church and Priest were not available due to other funerals or services that were booked during the same time. Please make sure that the Funeral Home confirms with the church first before any notifications are sent out.
2. The Trisagion service can occur either at the Funeral home or the Church, whichever is most convenient for the family.
In the Orthodox world, the pre-funeral Trisagion occurs at the home of the departed. In North America, it happens at the Funeral Home. The practice of having it at the Church is simply to accommodate for more space. It is not a church requirement.
3. Bring the following with you at the appointment:
Clothes that you would like your departed relative to wear for the Funeral service
A picture of the deceased
A savanon (church burial cloth) – if you do not have one, some funeral homes carry them. Alternatively, you can get one from the Church
What to bring to the Church for Funeral Services
Kollyva (a bowl of boiled wheat) should be ready for the Funeral service (more about that here). For the funeral, it should be plain wheat. At later memorials, kollyva are decorated with sugar.
A bottle of sacramental wine and a small bottle of olive oil for the committal prayers.
If you choose, a thanks offering/envelope to the chanter and the Church cleaner as they are volunteering their time for the funeral. Amounts are at the family’s discretion.
The wine, oil and kollyva can be brought to the Trisagion the day before.
This to know during the service
1. Icons are not buried with the deceased. You may have an icon with them in the casket if you like. It will be returned to you at the conclusion of the service. The church will always put an icon of the Resurrection of Christ in the casket, though.
2. No bowls are to be broken at the cemetery, as it is a pagan tradition.
3. The sermon at the Church is given by the Priest on the theology of the Resurrection and/or grief in the Orthodox tradition. Any eulogy about the life of the departed can to be given by the family at the Funeral Home or after the burial services.
4. The Priest will be wearing white at the service, as this is the traditional Orthodox colour to wear during funerals. Wearing black is a non-Christian custom to express sorrow, while white expresses hope in the Resurrection. It is recommended that families wear some white during the service to show hope in the Resurrection.
Makaria (Mercy Meal)
An ancient Christian tradition, this is done in memory of the departed. A time of fellowship with family and friends, it is also an act of charity to feed the needy. Usually, the Makaria is offered after the Funeral service.
In the spirit of the ancient Makaria, we encourage families to do an act of charity in memory of the departed. Many people choose to sponsor a meal for the homeless.
Grieving in Christ: Memorials and Trisagia after the Funeral
Usually, memorials are held on the 40th day, 3rd month, 6th month, 9th month, and 1 year after the passing of a loved one. After the 1-year memorial, families should do a memorial every year on the anniversary of a loved one's death at the Church. While some people maintain memorials should only be done on odd-numbered years, this is not the practice of the Orthodox Church.
Prayers are offered at Church with kollyva and prosforo, which can be prepared by our Philoptochos Society, along with prayers at the cemetery (if requested by the family). Families can bring their own kollyva and prosforo if they wish.
When are funerals not permitted?
Funerals are not permitted for anyone who is not an Orthodox Christian in good standing. This includes people who were never Orthodox (but might be married to an Orthodox Christian), or those who have left the Church (they joined another faith during their life and never repented, they were not married in the Church, etc.). This is a way the Church respects the free will of the person who has chosen to not live in accordance with the Faith. Please speak with Father for more information.
Burial vs. Cremation
The Orthodox Church has always practiced burial for all its believers. Cremation is not allowed, since our body is "the temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:19). As we would honour a church building, so too we honour our bodies with an Orthodox Christian burial. Most importantly, Jesus Christ could have been cremated, but showed us the path of burial before His resurrection.
Those who have chosen to be cremated will not receive a full Orthodox funeral, but only a Trisagion prayer at the Funeral Home before the cremation takes place. Please feel free to speak to Fr. Tim if you have more questions.
It is our prayer that these moments be as prayerful as possible, helping you in any way we can. May our Lord grant rest to the reposed, along with strength to the families during these difficult times.
Memory Eternal! Αιωνία η μνήμη!