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 live a life that is faithful to the Gospel, loving God and our neighbour with all our being. 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).
As death is always a difficult time for family and friends, everyone goes through different emotions - sorrow, fear, anger, etc. During this grieving process, the Church encourages us to express "joyful sorrow" (χαρμολύπη) centred in Christ. We express our sorrow, as St. Paul tells us in his First Epistle to the Thessalonians (4:13-18), grieving like people that have hope in the Final Resurrection. However, we also are called to be joyful, as the person who passes away is no longer troubled by the things of this world, but has entered into eternal rest. In the words of Jesus, "he who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life." (John 5:24)
The Prayer Services of the Church - trisagion, memorials, and funeral - are all 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.
When someone is ill…
First of all, know that the Church prays for all those who are sick and suffering at every service. We can pray for Orthodox Christian family or friends during the Divine Liturgy, as long as you submit their name(s) before the service.
Along with these prayers, the ill are encouraged to receive Holy Communion and Holy Unction. If they wish, Fr. Tim can also hear their confession. Only Orthodox Christians in good standing who are conscious and able to swallow can receive Holy Communion. If they are unable to receive Holy Communion, prayers will still be offered by the Priest.
If you would like the Priest to come and visit them at the hospital, hospice, or at home, please email Fr. Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the office and speak with the Office Administrator. For emergencies after hours, please call the Church and dial the emergency line for Fr. Tim.
I want to Pre-Plan. What should I do?
If a family member is gravely ill, here are two important steps to make things easier:
1. Funeral Home: Families should contact a funeral home to begin the pre-planning process. Our Community is blessed to have a great working relationship with Mount Pleasant Funeral Home (Dignity Memorial). The staff are very familiar with our Church traditions and customs.
2. Cemetery Plots: If you have not purchased a cemetery plot, please discuss with the Funeral Home during your consultation with them. 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.
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. Jesus Christ could have been cremated, but showed us the path of burial.
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.
Trisagion and Funeral Services
Upon the death of a loved one, please have the funeral home of your choice call the Church. Dates for the Trisagion and Funeral services will be set in consultation with the Office Administrator of the Church. Usually, the Trisagion is held the day before the funeral at 7 pm, and the Funeral is held at about 11 am (depending on the time of the burial). Families should bring wine and oil for the service as an offering to the Church. They will also be used for the committal service.
At the directive of our Archdiocese, only canonical Orthodox clergy can deliver a sermon at the services. Families are free to speak at the makaria the night before or the day of the funeral.
Makaria (Mercy Meal)
An ancient Christian tradition is the offering of the Makaria (or, "Mercy Meal") in memory of the departed as a time of fellowship with family and friends, and also act of charity (as they would feed the poor and needy). Usually, the Makaria is offered after the Trisagion and Funeral services. Our Philoptochos Society can contact you at your request to arrange the Makaria at the church hall. In the spirit of the ancient Makaria, people are encouraged to do an act of charity - either by donation or otherwise - in memory of the departed.
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.
For Orthodox Christians, funerals are not permitted on Sunday (as it is the Lord's Day), and on any feasts of the Lord or the Theotokos. Please speak to Fr. Tim if you have any questions.
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. 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.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, memorials and trisagia will be held on Saturdays from 9:30 to 11 a.m. This is to allow the family to have more people attend both the memorial and Sunday service (as the cap is 50 people, as per the Provincial Health Officer). If you wish to have a memorial for your dearly departed relative, please contact the Church office for more information.
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!