Greek Orthodox Funeral Service Rituals

Greek Orthodox Funeral Customs

A Greek Orthodox church and bell tower near Fira town on the island of Santorini

The Greek Orthodox Church was formed in 1054 by the “Great Schism” when the church in Rome (now referred to as the Catholic or the Roman Catholic Church) broke away from the Orthodox Church, which was ruled by the patriarch of Constantinople (now Istanbul). “Greek” refers to the original founders who spoke Greek and used Greek philosophy to express their faith.

Today, the divisions resulting from the Great Schism include the Antiochian, Carpatho-Russian, Greek, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches which follow the languages and cultures of their founders. Although many Orthodox beliefs remain the same, the defining principle of Orthodoxy is the belief that the teachings of Jesus and the twelve apostles represent truth.

In the Greek Orthodox Church beliefs, death separates the soul from the body. The experience takes on the quality of the behavior, character and communion with God. Later, with Christ’s coming, final judgment will result and each soul will spend eternity in Heaven or Hell.

At the funeral service, guests can greet the family with the phrase, “Memory Eternal” or offer condolences. There is usually an open casket, but viewing the body is optional. Believers may kiss an icon or a cross that lies on the breast of the deceased, but non-believers are not required to do so. Then the priest leads the service and reads from selected texts. Non-believers are expected to stand with the congregation and participate. At graveside, each guest places a flower on the casket.

Greek Orthodox Quick Reference Guide
Length of Service30 – 60 minutes
Dress Code? (Men/Women)Dark & Somber / Men: Jacket & Tie
Recording Devices?No
Source of Readings?The Divine Liturgy
Open Casket?Usually
Return to Work? (Days)7
No. of Days to Mourn?Depends

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