‘God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away’ — Revelation 21:4
The central message of the Gospel is beautifully summarised by the hymn we sing at Pascha (Easter): ‘Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and to those in the tombs bestowing life’.
While humanity’s separation from God had made us all subject to death, God frees us from this bondage by assuming human nature in the person of Jesus Christ. By uniting himself to our death, we are united to His resurrection.
Death is thus transformed; it is no longer the permanent end of a human life, but a temporary passage from one life to another. This is why the Lord says, ‘I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live’ (John 11:25), and why St Paul says that Christians should ‘not grieve as do the rest who have no hope’ (1 Thessalonians 4:13), since Christ, by freeing us from the permanence of death, has also freed us from the fear of death (Hebrew 2:15), allowing us to face and understand death in a spirit of hope and assurance.
The Orthodox funeral service, then, does not so much mark the end of life as it does the beginning of a person’s journey into eternity. In the service, pray for the departed person, that God will forgive their sins and imperfections and give them rest with his saints until the day of their bodily resurrection. Many hymns also address those present, reminding them to eschew the vanities of this life — money, power, fame, physical beauty — which will all come to an end, and to instead focus on adorning the soul with the virtues that will accompany it into eternity.
Arranging a funeral at St Andrew’s
Because the church cannot directly liaise with the cemetery regarding available time slots, all arrangements should be made through the funeral directors, who will contact us to arrange a time for the funeral.
If you are using a funeral agency that may not have previous experience with Orthodox burials, please ensure that the priest will have olive oil, water, and soil available at the graveside.
Kollyva (boiled wheat, symbolising the resurrection) can be ordered through the church if needed.
How long is the funeral service?
The service itself normally takes just under an hour.
Which language will the service be in?
The service can be conducted entirely in Greek, entirely in English, or in a mix of both depending on the preference of the family.
Speakers and readings
You are more than welcome to invite speakers to say or read something at the end of the funeral.
Can music be played at the funeral?
The only music permitted in the church are the hymns appointed for the funeral service itself.
Camden Council normally provides us with parking permits for up to 10 vehicles, which allow for parking on single yellow lines and residents’ bays around the church. There are also a number of pay-by-phone bays in the vicinity. Camden Council require that a confirmation letter from the funeral agent (on the company letterhead) and a copy of the death certificate be attached to the permit application.
Our faith teaches us that the human being is psychosomatic — made up of both soul and body. The body is an integral part of the human person and participates in our sanctification together with the soul. This is why belief in the physical resurrection of the body is an essential part of our faith, and why the Orthodox Church does not under normal circumstances condone the burning of the body after death.
The Archdiocese may in exceptional cases grant permission for a church funeral to be conducted in connection with a cremation. In cases where this might apply, the family should contact the Archdiocesan offices and obtain permission before arranging the funeral at the church. In these cases, the normal funeral service will be held in church, but the priest will not be able to accompany the deceased to the crematorium.
Please follow the link for more information on the Christian Orthodox Cemetery in Kensal Green, London.
‘O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live: And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD’ — Ezekiel 37:4–6.