- icon - Final Judgment
- Icon - Resurrection
Death and the Final Judgment
What is death?
For most people it is the end of life. For Orthodox Christians it is the beginning of a new life. In spiritual terms, death is the separation of the soul from the body. Paul says it is the “deliverance of the soul from prison” (2 Cor 5:1-4), or a “departure” (2Timothy 4:6). Peter says it is “putting off the body” (2Peter 1:14) and in Acts it is referred to as “sleep” (Acts 13:36).
Paul tells us that there is a judgment after death; “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27). This is called the particular judgement. After the body give up it physical life, the soul leave it and go to a state of blessedness or torment according to its deeds. But this is not the final state so it is one where the full blessedness or torment is not felt. This come with the final judgement when the body and soul are reunited.
There will be a second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ we are told in Scripture (Matt 25:31-46). On this day there will be accomplished the universal resurrection of the dead in a transfigured appearance. It will be universal and simultaneous. It will solemn and open, strict and terrible, final and definitive, determining for all eternity our fate.
Paul reasons that the resurrection of the dead is what makes us Christian. Christ showed us the way through death to a new transfigured life. If we do not believe in this we cannot believe in the Resurrection of Christ.￼
If there is no resurrection
of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen,
then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes,
and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified
of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in
fact the dead do not rise... But now Christ is risen from the dead,
and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep...
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. (1 Cor 15:13-15, 20, 22)
...all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation. (John 5:28-29)
What will our new bodies be like after our resurrection? We know from the transfigured presence of Christ what they will be like. They will essentially the same in appearance. But they will be transfigured. The bodies of the righteous will be incorrupt and immortal. They will be free from infirmities and weaknesses, and will not have bodily needs. The new life will be like the angels.
The world as we know
it is not eternal. Only our souls are eternal. Peter writes, The
heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are
reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly
men... the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in
which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements
will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are
in it will be burned up... Nevertheless we, according to His promise,
look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2Peter 3:7, 10, 13)
The end of the world will not end in total destruction but in a complete change and renewal.
The heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men... the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up... Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (2Peter 3:7, 10, 13)
Prolonging Life or Hindering Death? An Orthodox Perspective on Death, Dying and Euthanasia by Father Nikolaou Hatzinikolaou
Orthodox Christian funerals are held for faithful Orthodox Christians who have lived their lives in a sacramental and canonical unity with the Eastern Orthodox Church. In other words, only those who have been baptized and chrismated in the Orthodox church, and have had their marriage blessed in the church are eligible for an Orthodox funeral. An Orthodox funeral is denied to any Orthodox Christian who has committed suicide, unless he or she was proven to be psychologically or mentally ill at the time of death.
If there is a death in your family, the following
steps should be taken:
1. Immediately notify the family doctor or the county medical examiner (coroner) if the death occurred at home so he/she may examine the deceased and sign the death certificate. The body may not be removed otherwise.
2. Call the funeral director of your choice.
3. Inform the priest.
The church has no objection to autopsies for the sake of determining the cause of death, to further medical science, for the donation of body organs (eyes, heart, etc.), or for transplants, as long as the intent is to save or improve another human being's life. Cremation is absolutely forbidden by the church. It is considered blasphemous to the body of man which is "the temple of the Holy Spirit." Cremation is also considered a denial of the important doctrine of the bodily resurrection of all the faithful in Christ. Insistence on cremation will result in refusal by the church to allow a church service for the deceased.
Our religious beliefs govern the preparation of the body for burial. In keeping with the Orthodox goal of theosis, an Orthodox should be buried like Christ according to the Old Testament tradition. "...for out [of the ground] you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return." Gen 3:19
The family usually selects a favorite article of clothing for the deceased. A wooden casket is preferred in accordance with the belief that the human body returns to dust as it can decompose quickly.
For the viewing and funeral place an icon on the corner of he casket by the deceased head or in the hands of the deceased for guests to kiss. Choose a saint with meaning to the deceased. this icon can be buried with the deceased but this is not necessary.
The casket should be left open for viewing and the funeral. For the funeral dress conservatively and the immediate family usually wears black. Black and white are also appropriate as black symbolizes mourning and white new life.
On the evening before the day of the funeral, the priest will conduct a small prayer service (Trisagion), either in the church or at the funeral home, wherever the deceased is lying in state. The same Trisagion service is conducted at the cemetery during the internment.
The funeral service emphasises the reality of death and the new life of the deceased. It is a poistive service featuring prayers for forgiveness and repose of the departed's soul. (Complete funeral service)
Funeral services particular to certain lay organizations may not be held from the evening of the Trisagion to the committal at the cemetery. Should the family wish to have another clergyman offer a prayer for the deceased, he may do so only during the graveside ceremony, following the Orthodox Trisagion.
The makaria following the funeral service is a fellowship meal served only as a means of comforting the bereaved and expressing thanks to those who attended the services or assisted the bereaved during their time of grief.
Death alters but does not destroy the bond of love and faith which exists among all the members of the Church. Orthodoxy believes that through our prayers, those "who have fallen asleep in the faith and the hope of the Resurrection" continue to have opportunity to grow closer to God. Therefore, the Church prays constantly for her members who have died in Christ. We place our trust in the love of God and the power of mutual love and forgiveness. We pray that God will forgive the sins of the faithful departed, and that He will receive them into the company of Saints in the heavenly Kingdom.
The Orthodox Church remembers the departed in the prayers of every Divine Liturgy. Besides this, there is a Memorial Service in which the Church also remembers the dead. According to tradition, the Memorial Service is offered on the third, ninth, and fortieth day after a death, as well as on the yearly anniversary of the death. In addition to these times, the Memorial Service is always offered for all the faithful departed on four "Saturdays of the souls." These are: the two Saturdays preceding Great Lent; the first Saturday of Great Lent; and, the Saturday before Pentecost. In the United States the Service is also offered on Memorial Day. The most common times to offer individual memorials are the fortieth day following the death, at six months, the first year anniversary, the third year anniversary, and Saturday of Souls. You can have as many memorials as you wish.
When the Memorial Service is offered, it is customary for the family of the deceased to bring a dish of boiled wheat to the Church. The boiled wheat is placed on a table in the center of the nave during the Service. The wheat, known as kollyva, is a symbol of the Resurrection. When speaking of the Resurrection, our Lord said: "Unless the grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit." (John 12:24)
Arranging for a Memorial Service
you would like to have a Memorial Service for a departed loved one,
you should notify the church office at least two weeks prior to the
day desired. Memorial Services are not held on:
1. All Holy Days of our Lord: Christmas, Easter, Epiphany, Transfiguration, etc.
2. From the Saturday of Lazarus to (and including) St. Thomas Sunday.
3. On the Sunday of Pentecost.
4. On August 15th.
When preparing for a Memorial Service, you should bring kollyva, Prosforo and wine, and a list of names to be commemorated.
Preparing the Kollyva
Start preparation of Kollyva two days in advance and assemble the day of the memorial.
4 cups (2pounds) shelled wheat
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups slivered almonds
1 cup pine nuts
2 cups white raisins
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons coriander
2 teaspoons cumin
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups finely ground zwieback toast
Optional: seeds of one pomegranate and 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
Decoration: Whole blanched almonds without skins, white candied almonds, large silver dragees, white paper doilies
Distribution: Small plastic bags and spoons
Cover wheat with 2 quarts of water and soak overnight. Drain and rinse. cover with 4 quarts of water in a large heavy pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered several hours, keeping the wheat covered with water and stirring occasionally, until wheat becomes puffy and tender. (Cooking time varies with time of soaking.) Drain in a colander, rinse, and drain again. Spread the wheat out on a smooth dish towel to dry overnight. (If desired, burn a kandili beside the wheat as it dries.)
Prepare all other ingredients but do not assemble until the day of the memorial to prevent mush-like texture.
On the day of the memorial light a censer and kandili while making the kollyva Cover a large tray approximately 20" x 13" with wax paper and then paper doilies that extend over the edge about an inch and a half. combine al the ingredients except the powdered sugar, zwieback crumbs and decorations. Put combined mixture on a tray and mold into a heaping mound toward the center, pressing it smooth. Spread crumbs evenly over the top, making sure the wheat is thoroughly covered, and press down. (This layer keeps the wheat mixture from bleeding through to the top layer of powdered sugar.) Sift powdered sugar over the mound and press smooth with wax paper.
Make a cross in the center with large silver dragees. With blanched almonds from the initial of the first name of the deceased on the left side of the cross, and the initial of the last name on the right. Decorate the edges as desired.
Take the Kollyva to church where it will be placed on a small table by the icon of Christ at the ikonostasion. If the table does not have candles, put one or three in the Kollyva to be lit during the memorial service. After the service put about 1/4 cup of Kollyva in small plastic bags for distribution to parishioners. eat with spoon or fingers.
The ingredients have symbolic meaning: wheat for everlasting life, raisins for sweetness, pomegranate seeds for plenty, powdered sugar for the sweetness of heaven, and parsley for the green of the earth.
The above recipe is taken from the book, A Guide to Greek Traditions and Customs in America by Marilyn Rouvelas.