Do You Have to Arrange an Orthodox Funeral? You'll Need to Read This

If a family member or loved one has passed away and wished to have an Orthodox funeral, there are certain preparations that need to be made. You should consult with church officials as soon as possible, as Orthodox funerals are generally only considered as such when they are held in an actual Orthodox Church. If it is not possible to hold the service in the church for whatever reason, it might be possible to bring traditional aspects of an Orthodox funeral into a more conventional, non-denominational service. This shows respect to your family member or loved one's final wishes, even if they are not able to be wholly fulfilled. Perhaps you're not Orthodox yourself or have not practised your faith for quite some time. If you are unfamiliar with the tenets of Orthodoxy, there are a few things you need to be aware of if you're assisting in the funeral arrangements.

Check Eligibility

Largely speaking, any member of the Orthodox faith can opt for an Orthodox funeral. There are some exemptions, such as if the deceased also wished to be cremated. When the deceased is cremated instead of buried, a traditional Orthodox Church service might not be permitted. If the deceased tragically took their own life, then an Orthodox Church service might also not be permitted. This can depend on the events (mitigating factors) that led up to the event. There is some room for negotiation, so meet with church officials as soon as possible. If the deceased is deemed ineligible, you might wish to incorporate some Orthodox traditions into the subsequent service. So what do you need to know?

The Funeral Director

If possible, you should engage the services of a funeral director who has some familiarity with an Orthodox service. They will take care of necessary arrangements such as preparing the deceased for an open casket (as is standard in Orthodox funerals). They will also consider key details, such as not placing a photograph of the deceased on or around the casket (or anywhere in the hall), as is traditional in Orthodox services. An experienced funeral director might also be able to assist with the traditional post-service Orthodox meal, known as a Makaria (mercy meal).

The Funeral Celebrant

The service would usually be led by an Orthodox Priest. If the service does not take place in an Orthodox Church, you might wish to ask the funeral director if they know of a funeral celebrant who is familiar with Orthodoxy. The leader of the service should wear white to celebrate the deceased's rebirth in the afterlife, and will lead the attendees in prayer. The friends and family of the deceased traditionally do not give a eulogy, but they can give a prepared statement to the celebrant to be read on their behalf.

While hopefully the service will be held in an Orthodox Church and officiated by a priest, it's important to be familiar with some key aspects of an Orthodox funeral in case you need to make some of the arrangements yourself.

About Me

Taking the Questions Out of Funeral Pre-Planning

The most surreal moment in my life was sitting across from a funeral director discussing my grandmother's funeral and burial. The director was asking questions that I either had no answer to or that I simply nodded my way through. It was the hardest and most surreal moment of my life, and afterwards I realised that these hard questions are the ones that need the most thought so our loved ones don't have to make these tough choices during a time of such grief. This blog is here to help others answer those questions, prepare for end of life choices, and pre-plan their funerals without the grief and panic that so many go through.

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