Beliefs About Death
Eastern Orthodox Christians have many subgroups, however most of them believe that salvation is achieved through living holy lives that are similar to the life of Christ. Eastern Orthodoxy has different views than Western traditions regarding the afterlife in Heaven or Hell. Eastern Orthodoxy defines Heaven as God's eternal presence for the ones who love God, while the same presence would be a Hell for those who do not love God.
What Happens After Death Occurs?
When an Orthodox person is experiencing their final days, an Orthodox priest must be brought in so the person can receive Holy Communion and have the priest hear their final confession. After the passing occurs, the priest will lead a prayer with everyone present asking for the release of the soul of the deceased. The priest will then be present when the family of the deceased prepares the body by washing and dressing it. The wake service then starts as soon as the process of preparing the body is completed and traditionally lasts for 3 days, but some Orthodox churches only have a one day wake. The book of Psalms is read at the wake by family members while other prayers are led by the priest of the church. The funeral service would start right after the wake is completed.
Is Cremation Allowed in the Orthodox Chruch?
The Christian Orthodox Church prohibits cremation for multiple reasons. The first reason is that it denies the value of the human body and does not respect it as the creation of God. Another reason cremation is prohibited in Orthodoxy is that Jesus Christ died on the cross then buried, and since Orthodox Christians attempt to live a holy life similar to the one of Christ, they should also follow what happened with Christ after his death. The Orthodox Church has made some exceptions in the past and allowed for cremations of Orthodox members, however this is rather uncommon. In such cases, the body of the deceased must be present at the funeral service and cremation has to take place after the service is completed.
Views on Embalming
Embalming is accepted by Orthodox Christians and is generally needed since the casket of the deceased is opened after the wake is over and the funeral service begins.Click here if you like to learn more about Embalming.
The Orthodox Funeral Service
Christian Orthodox priests conduct the Orthodox funeral service in the church shortly after the wake is over. The service typically begins with the procession of the casket led by the priest and the holding of a cross. During this phase, the priest will lead the service by singing the hymn of Trisagion. When this is completed, the casket of the deceased is opened and the funeral service continues while the deceased is exposed. A bowl of boiled wheat and honey with a lit candle on top is placed near the top of the casket. A wreath is typically placed on the head of the deceased and a symbol of Christ or the patron saint of the deceased is placed in their hand. Candles are then distributed to everyone who is present and are expected to be lit for the remainder of the funeral service. The priest leads the service by saying prayers, leading the Dismissal, reciting "Memory Eternal" and sometimes offering Holy Communion. After that is completed, mourners can say their final goodbyes to the deceased before the casket is closed again and moved to a cemetery, in which a short graveside burial service is done and the body is buried.
Christian Orthodox Churches in Ontario
Greek Orthodox Cathedral Annunciation Of The Virgin Mary Church
This church was restored in 2000 after a devastating fire by utilizing traditional Byzantine architectural plans for Orthodox Churches. The parish is known by its Greek name of "Panagia". The church was first built in the early 1960s and has been a constant home for many Greek Orthodox Christians in Toronto.
Christ The Saviour Orthodox Church
The Christ the Saviour Parish was founded in the early 1980s by the church's current pastor. The parish merged with one of the oldest parishes in Ottawa in 2003, essentially continuing the legacy of Ottawa's oldest Orthodox parishes with the missionary spirit of the younger parish. This church offers services to all Orthodox Christians in the Ottawa area and invites anyone else who is interested to join their services.