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#335810 - 10/25/09 11:57 PM Byzantine Funeral Rite
JoeFlorida Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/21/09
Posts: 2
Loc: Florida
My first, and only experience, with the Byzantine Catholic Church was a prayer service at a funeral home and by attending the Mass of Resurrection (not sure if in the Byzantine it is called this or not).

While I was overwhelmed with emotion - for the deceased - one thing that bothered me about the entire experience is lack of mention of the deceased or the family she left behind. No one, family or friends, remembered or celebrated the life of the person - all the good that she did on earth; acting as a true instrument of God's hands on earth.

Granted my life experience has been primarily Roman Catholic liturgy where at both the Evening Prayer service at the funeral home the Priest or Deacon has always encouraged sharing of memories of the person. Then during the Mass of Resurrection there is almost always a eulogy. Even in the Jewish funeral service there is a remembrance or eulogy of some kind.

Help me to understand the Byzantine Funeral Rite.

Thank you,

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#335811 - 10/26/09 12:11 AM Re: Byzantine Funeral Rite [Re: JoeFlorida]
theophan Offline
Moderator
Member

Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 5861
Loc: Hollidaysburg, PA
JOE:

Christ is in our midst!! He is and always will be!!

Welcome to the forum.

I won't speak to your specific questions about the focus of the Byzantine Funeral Services--Parastas or Panichida. However, as a funeral director, I will comment that the idea that funeral services should be a "celebration of life" or an extended eulogy of the life of the deceased person is relatively new. I've been in funeral service for more than 43 years and there has been a sea change in American culture that has resulted in funeral services being seen as being primarily a celebration fo a life lived. It was not always so.

From a Christian standpoint, I'd say that it comes along with our desire to "canonize" everyone, minimize the idea of sin and the consequences ot it, and give everyone a "touchy/feely" so that the one of the principle purposes for stopping for a funeral (for the grieving people who attend) is lost. And that reason is to seriously stop one's particular treadmill, really take a look at one's own life, and refocus on the important questions--why am I here?; is there more to life than this?; what is that more?; what are the answers?; etc.

So many celebrations of life with which I have been involved seem to go to great lengths to say as much positive about the deceased that they often miss the very deep wounds that are often under the surface and don't have an outlet for expression. But maybe that's why so many are turning to a simple disposal of the remains and avoiding services altogether these days.

BOB

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#335814 - 10/26/09 12:37 AM Re: Byzantine Funeral Rite [Re: theophan]
JoeFlorida Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 10/21/09
Posts: 2
Loc: Florida
Bob - thank you for your message. In my experience both as eulogizing a loved one and listening to them - it is to remember the good works they have done and to remind us through the deceased that we are called to do good works. In the Roman Catholic liturgy the eulogy was done in such a way to tie it to the readings - and on those occassions when the homilist could they tied it into what how we are all called to live.

I found the Byzantine Catholic prayer service to be very focused on the deceased sins. I know that we are all sinners, but to my ear there seemed to be greater emphasis on her sins. As one friend said; it didn't seem forgiving. I could be a misunderstanding of the service - but that's why I'm asking for clarification and understanding of the liturgies.

Thanks,

Joe

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#335824 - 10/26/09 01:33 AM Re: Byzantine Funeral Rite [Re: theophan]
StuartK Offline
Member

Registered: 11/09/01
Posts: 7394
Loc: Falls Church, VA
The remembrance and celebration of the deceased usually takes place at the mercy meal, after the funeral. At the three parts of the Panachida--at the funeral parlor (originally at the home), at the church, and at the graveside, we are mostly concerned with the future welfare of the deceased, that his sins be forgiven, that he be given peace and salvation, and that his memory be eternal; i.e., that God will continually call him to mind and therefore save him from being blotted out of existence.

I've always thought the great strength of the Byzantine funeral rite is its focus on the eschatological dimension, and that it removes just about all discretion from the family about how the service should be celebrated.

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#335830 - 10/26/09 03:33 AM Re: Byzantine Funeral Rite [Re: StuartK]
Penthaetria Offline
Member

Registered: 09/16/04
Posts: 713
Loc: DC area
I think that the Christian East remembers something the West tends to forget: Every liturgy is about Jesus Christ. The people come together not to celebrate one another, but to celebrate the resurrection of Our Lord and Savior.

Just as a wedding is not "the bride's day," the funeral is not "about" the deceased. Both liturgies are sacred rituals that bring the community closer to God. The homilist at a wedding doesn't just tell sweet stories about the bride and groom: He will, of course, refer to them, but the heart of his sermon is what the sacrament of marriage teaches us about our relationship to God. The anecdotes of the couple's courtship are properly told at the reception, at the rehearsal dinner, etc.

In a similar fashion, the funeral service calls the community to the heart of the Christian mystery: That the promise of Eternal Life is not just a promise, that we too will enter into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

<I'm sorry... My kids interrupted and I lost my train of thought. But I think you see where I was going.>

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#335840 - 10/26/09 10:11 AM Re: Byzantine Funeral Rite [Re: Penthaetria]
StuartK Offline
Member

Registered: 11/09/01
Posts: 7394
Loc: Falls Church, VA
My sympathies with Penthataetria--my train of thought has often been derailed by demanding children, but I think before you went off the tracks you hit the important point--every Eastern liturgy is about Christ and our life in him.

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#335849 - 10/26/09 12:38 PM Re: Byzantine Funeral Rite [Re: JoeFlorida]
theophan Offline
Moderator
Member

Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 5861
Loc: Hollidaysburg, PA
JOE:

Christ is in our midst!! He is and always will be!!

There's another element here that you may not be aware of. The Byzantine tradtion does not look at many things in the same way as the Latin West. My two esteemed colleagues pointed out parts of that way of approaching this.

The Christian East approaches the Mystery of God moving, work, and gracing His People in and through the liturgical experience. You might be interested in the fact that the Funeral Service is often numbered as what we Latins might call sacraments. It is the last sacrament that the Church confers on one of her members. (Some Byzantine writers also number the coronation of kings in addition to the seven numbered by Trent.)

Now, with this approach, I'd have to ask you if it would be appropriate to expound on a person's virtues at the time of Holy Communion. Or in the confessional? Or when a person is annointed with the Oil of the Sick?

When you come to the Christian East, you need to come with absolutely no reference to your Latin background. You come to the same Mystery of God working among us for our theosis, but you come from an entirely different path and with an entirely different mindset. When you do that, you'll be on a new learning curve and be better able to appreciate how the Holy Spirit has spoken and moved the fathers of this particular patrimony.

In Christ,

BOB


Edited by theophan (10/26/09 05:45 PM)
Edit Reason: spelling

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#335853 - 10/26/09 12:57 PM Re: Byzantine Funeral Rite [Re: StuartK]
sielos ilgesys Offline
Member

Registered: 05/07/09
Posts: 1219
Loc: Texas/USA
The choir of Holy Trinity Cathedral (OCA?) on Green Street in San Francisco has recorded the Byzantine funeral service on a CD in English. It's called "Bright Sadness". Listening to it from time to time helps put my addled head back on track.

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#335908 - 10/27/09 01:43 AM Re: Byzantine Funeral Rite [Re: JoeFlorida]
Paul B Offline
Member

Registered: 11/11/01
Posts: 1732
Loc: PA
Joe Florida, I like the name. cool

The funeral rites are for the benefit of the deceased; for the people who attend it's an opportunity to add their prayers to the Church's. If you listen closely to the words you will see that its a personal communication of the soul to God.

The farewell hymns during the kissing of the cross is an opportunity for closure. The people approach and give their last farewell. Actually the casket should be open during this farewell, as well as during the entire funeral.

After attending Eastern funerals when I attend Roman funerals it seems, except for the homily, like the deceased isn't even there. The blessing of the casket and homily are the only recognition of newly departed....especially now that most times the people don't go to the cemetery...and when they do there is only a blessing without a real closure. The family leaves in tears rather than rejoicing the new life their loved one hopes for.

I guess the quandary isn't really the ritual but probably our American culture's lack of comprehension why Christ died and the hope of Resurrection.

Yours in Christ,
Fr Deacon Paul

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#335922 - 10/27/09 02:44 AM Re: Byzantine Funeral Rite [Re: Paul B]
Thomas the Seeker Offline
Member

Registered: 04/24/09
Posts: 980
Loc: PA
Originally Posted By: Paul B

I guess the quandary isn't really the ritual but probably our American culture's lack of comprehension why Christ died and the hope of Resurrection.

Fr Deacon Paul


That lack of understanding is exacerbated by the disconnect between Church and cemetery in many locales. I am blessed to serve a congregation where the church edefice is immediately adjacent to its cemetery. It is not possible to enter the Narthex from any direction without noticing the monuments.

Most of the Funerals take place in the Church with immediate burial in the Cemetery.

The oldest part (mid 19th century) is just outside the walls of the Nave. This is where we kindle the new fire to begin the Easter Vigil.

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#335924 - 10/27/09 03:18 AM Re: Byzantine Funeral Rite [Re: sielos ilgesys]
likethethief Offline
Member

Registered: 07/26/08
Posts: 1166
Loc: SF Bay, CA USA
Originally Posted By: sielos ilgesys
The choir of Holy Trinity Cathedral (OCA?) on Green Street in San Francisco has recorded the Byzantine funeral service on a CD in English. It's called "Bright Sadness". Listening to it from time to time helps put my addled head back on track.


This is a wonderful CD. I listen to it frequently in my car, it's in the CD player there right now.

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#335926 - 10/27/09 03:40 AM Re: Byzantine Funeral Rite [Re: StuartK]
likethethief Offline
Member

Registered: 07/26/08
Posts: 1166
Loc: SF Bay, CA USA
Originally Posted By: StuartK
I've always thought the great strength of the Byzantine funeral rite is its focus on the eschatological dimension, and that it removes just about all discretion from the family about how the service should be celebrated.


I've not been to a Byzantine funeral rite, though the first and last funerals I've been to in my life were Greek Orthodox which I'm guessing have more in common with Byzantine funeral rites than with Roman rite funerals. At age ten I had nothing to compare the first one to. It was my first exposure to the East and Divine Liturgy as well as my first funeral and it definitely shaped my experience of God.

I've assisted as a EMHC at a number of funerals this year in my Roman rite parish and it's made me yearn for what you say about the Byzantine "focus on the eschatological dimension, and that it removes just about all discretion from the family about how the service should be celebrated". I understand OPs difficulty with the difference, but for me personally it is a place where the west ain't my cup of tea.

The closest I've experienced in my Byzantine parish was a memorial service of some kind we had a couple months ago on an anniversary of the passing of a member's parent. I found it deeply moving. There was a photo of his parents present and their names were mentioned in the prayers. I was very grateful to have been present for it. It took place immediately after our DL that day and lasted maybe 30 minutes.

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#335945 - 10/27/09 04:55 PM Re: Byzantine Funeral Rite [Re: sielos ilgesys]
William Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 02/02/04
Posts: 20
Loc: Allentown, PA
Originally Posted By: sielos ilgesys
The choir of Holy Trinity Cathedral (OCA?) on Green Street in San Francisco has recorded the Byzantine funeral service on a CD in English. It's called "Bright Sadness". Listening to it from time to time helps put my addled head back on track.


Do you have a link as to where this can be ordered? I tried to Google it and couldn't find it.

Thanks

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#335993 - 10/28/09 01:01 PM Re: Byzantine Funeral Rite [Re: Paul B]
theophan Offline
Moderator
Member

Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 5861
Loc: Hollidaysburg, PA
Quote:
I guess the quandary isn't really the ritual but probably our American culture's lack of comprehension why Christ died and the hope of Resurrection.


Father Deacon Paul:

Christ is in our midst!! He is and always will be!!

After reflecting on our original poster's thoughts and your input, I thought I'd add an observation of my own, based on 43 years of attending funerals of every stripe and kind.

It seems to me that the focus of American funerals has moved toward the "celebration of life" concept where everything is same and sanitary. It seems to follow from the theological concept of "I'm okay; you're okay" that has left behind the concept of sin.

So many funerals I've attended in my official capacity seem to me to come off as canonizations of the deceased. And, to make matters worse, so many of the unchurched among us seem to think that the idea that a place called Heaven could be reserved for Christ and His People is discrimnatory--the worst sort of evil in secular thought. Even among young people who are supposedly believers there seems to be the idea that everyone lands in the same place. It even goes so far that I've had people say they can't wait to get to this place so they can meet Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Ghengis Khan, Pol Pot and so many other historical figures. (Now I don't pretend to judge them or their last state; it's the blurring of the idea that there can be a judgment and consequences for one's actions here that makes me uncomfortable.)

I know personally of a situation where a man forced another man to give up an underage daughter to a marriage when she was just out of eighth grade; forced this same man to abandon two of his children and move across the country; threatened the priest that if he refused to bless the marriage they'd cohabit until she was pregnant and he'd have to marry them; and then tried to do the same thing to his own daughter about sixteen years later. But at his funeral, he was eulogized as a model of his ethnic community. Talk about having your stomach churn!!

In Christ,

BOB


Edited by theophan (10/29/09 12:23 AM)

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#335998 - 10/28/09 01:32 PM Re: Byzantine Funeral Rite [Re: William]
sielos ilgesys Offline
Member

Registered: 05/07/09
Posts: 1219
Loc: Texas/USA
I got my copy @ St. Seraphim OCA Cathedral in Dallas (www.stseraphim.org) telephone # is (214) 528-3741. Mrs. Olga Zebrun is in charge of the excellent bookstore there.

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