Orthodox Funerals and Customs

1Orthodox Christians believe their faith is the original Christian faith passed down from Apostles and established by Jesus Christ himself in the Great Commission. In terms of size amongst Christian Churches, it is second only to the Roman Catholicism, with great prevalence in Eastern Europe as well as Greece and Russia.

In the context of Melbourne’s multicultural landscape, Orthodox funeral services are common within the Greek, Russian, Macedonian, Serbian, Romanian, Ukranian and some Indian communities with variations of beliefs and customs between the sects.

More common with Melbourne’s Greek community, family and close friends of the deceased Orthodox Christian prepare the deceased’s body by washing and clothing the body with a priest present. Prior to placing the body in the casket, the priest will sprinkle holy water on each side of the casket. Subsequent to the preparation of the body, the Priest will facilitate a prayer service for the deceased and marks the beginning of the wake. The Book of Psalms is read aloud by family and friends attending and following prayer services are performed. Traditionally the wake will last until the body is brought into the Church; typically it amounts to three days although it has been reduced to one in modern times.

Orthodox funerals are typically held in a church up to a week after the death and not scheduled on a Sunday or Holy Saturday. Facilitated by a bishop or priest of the deceased’s church, several readings and prayers are offered, during which the casket is open and placed centrally at the altar. Following the service, a procession of funeral attendees pass the casket to pay last respects to the deceased. Upon arriving at the casket, viewers may kiss the icon– which is usually a hand-cross–set on the side of the coffin or in the hands of the departed.

After the funeral, the priest and mourners gather at the cemetery for the burial of the body. One of the significant inclinations of Orthodox Christians is frowning on the practice of cremation of the deceased’s body. This is because of the church’s belief that although the soul is disconnected from the body at death, this separation is only temporary and at the Final Judgement, the soul and body are reunited. Thus, some Orthodox Christians also have prohibitions to organ donations. At the cemetery plot, a mark or monument featuring the Cross is placed at the head of the grave.

The Orthodox Funeral is an intricate service and perceived to be as faithful to its original traditions and culture. Over its vast history, it has produced a number of sects and variations that adapt to cultural differences and changing times around the world. Should you wish to learn more about Orthodox Funeral Services available in Melbourne, you are welcome to contact our staff at Victoria Funerals for reliable advice about carefully considered funeral arrangements for you or your loved one.