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#378012 - 03/25/12 06:34 AM How Orthodoxy Deals with the Dying and the Dead
Adam DeVille Offline
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Registered: 01/12/02
Posts: 403
Loc: Fort Wayne, IN
A fascinating glimpse into a world many of us would prefer to ignore: http://easternchristianbooks.blogspot.com/2012/03/mark-and-elizabeth-barna-on-dying-and.html

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#378014 - 03/25/12 09:20 AM Re: How Orthodoxy Deals with the Dying and the Dead [Re: Adam DeVille]
sielos ilgesys Offline
Member

Registered: 05/07/09
Posts: 1219
Loc: Texas/USA
Maybe this book will lead to the founding of Byzantine Christian Chevrot Kadisha...the Jews have us beat when it comes to preparation of the dead for burial, and the interments themselves. We can learn a lot from them.

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#378049 - 03/26/12 06:21 AM Re: How Orthodoxy Deals with the Dying and the Dead [Re: Adam DeVille]
likethethief Offline
Member

Registered: 07/26/08
Posts: 1118
Loc: SF Bay, CA USA
Thank you for sharing this. I'm very tempted to I found that when I made the canonical change in Church from Latin Catholic to Russian Greek Catholic the most challenging shift for me was that when I repose my body will not be cremated. Coming from a family where for several generations our family members were cremated my expectation of being cremated was quite hard wired in my mind.

This interview reminded me of a quite extraordinary movie we saw a few years ago "Departures". I can't recommend it too highly. It was so moving-- people throughout the theater were clearly crying as was I. Makes me want to borrow it from the library soon.

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#378077 - 03/27/12 12:03 AM Re: How Orthodoxy Deals with the Dying and the Dead [Re: Adam DeVille]
Alice Offline
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Registered: 01/12/03
Posts: 10715
Loc: USA
Can I borrow this from my library? Thanks for the link to the trailer..it looks quite good.

You say that several generations of your family have been cremated? Has the lift of the ban of cremation in the RC church been for that long?

I thought that dying and funerals seemed much more 'natural' in Greece. (My in-laws died there)...The bodies are buried the next day, and there is a viewing on the day of the funeral for the family, but at the cemetery. The caskets, even the most expensive ones, are simple and old fashioned...(like the one of Pope John Paul II). The recently departed look natural, (no embalming) and not like puffed up unrecongizable versions of what they once looked like.

I wonder where all these American traditions came from? Could it be a lack of comfort with death?

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#378082 - 03/27/12 02:01 AM Re: How Orthodoxy Deals with the Dying and the Dead [Re: Alice]
sielos ilgesys Offline
Member

Registered: 05/07/09
Posts: 1219
Loc: Texas/USA
I understand that in Greece the dead are exhumed after a few years and their bones washed (in red wine?) & then placed in a charnel house. The vacated grave can then be used for someone else. Sometimes the relatives go to the exhumation and actually handle the bones as they are extracted from the soil...the American practices involving embalming became possible & popular during and following the Civil War. The bodies of the soldiers could thus be returned to their families and viewed before burial.

Photography of the deceased lying in state used to be popular here, too. People would look at these pix and share them around. It's still done but more "on the sly"...it's become a cultural taboo... I read once that Queen Victoria used to go lock herself up in an attic and get out her album of the photos of her dead relatives lying in state and that she derived some kind of consolation from looking at them.

North American discomfort with death developed as more people died not at home but in hospitals & nursing homes; and I'd wager that the more the socity has become materialistic and hankers after the pleasures of the flesh, the greater people grow ill-at-ease with death. Someone once said death is the new pornography. Makes sense to me, that people might think like that....

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#378087 - 03/27/12 07:09 AM Re: How Orthodoxy Deals with the Dying and the Dead [Re: sielos ilgesys]
likethethief Offline
Member

Registered: 07/26/08
Posts: 1118
Loc: SF Bay, CA USA
Originally Posted By: Alice
Can I borrow this from my library? Thanks for the link to the trailer..it looks quite good.

You say that several generations of your family have been cremated? Has the lift of the ban of cremation in the RC church been for that long?


Let me know what you think of the film.

My grandparents left the Church early in the 1900s. The ban was very much in effect when they died and were cremated, at their request. My father was a fallen away Anglican and always made it clear he wanted his ashes sprinkled in the Yuba River where we camped every summer. Our mother wanted her ashes in a mausoleum like her parents and her sister. I really don't remember ever hearing as a child growing up in the Episcopal Church in the 50's that cremation was wrong although at that time it surely must have not been allowed for them. It was many years later that I came to realize how unusual was my family. I really would have thought well in to my 30s that most Americans chose cremation, not so.

My first (and for perhaps decades my only) funeral experience happened to be my first exposure also to Orthodoxy at the yet not completed local Greek Orthodox Cathedral when I was about 10. The Papu whom I was very close to of my best and very close friend died and his funeral was there. I was in this Cathedral again tonight for Lenten Compline. smile

I've assisted in many funerals in my Latin parish as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion back before I changed canonically to an ECC and only once was the body not present for the Mass, ashes present instead. It may be either that in this parish there continues to be a strong following of not cremating, or it may be that those who choose cremation choose also not to have a funeral Mass.

Years before my move to an Eastern Church my daughter's birth-mother's mother-in-law, one of our daughter's grandmothers (actually younger than me...) died suddenly. She is buried in a Catholic cemetery about half an hour from us and frequent visits to her grave site has been very important to our daughter. It taught me the need of my children to be able to "visit" my grave when that time comes.

Originally Posted By: sielos ilgesys
I understand that in Greece the dead are exhumed after a few years and their bones washed (in red wine?) & then placed in a charnel house.


When I read some time ago of this practice at least in monasteries I immediately wished this could happen with my body. I don't believe even "green" burial is permitted yet where I live.

Fortunately my mother died in her sleep, while still living an active life in her 90s, and my sister, my son and I all happened to be in her house at the time. We were able to do our own version of preparing her body before we called the mortuary.

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#378091 - 03/27/12 01:31 PM Re: How Orthodoxy Deals with the Dying and the Dead [Re: sielos ilgesys]
sielos ilgesys Offline
Member

Registered: 05/07/09
Posts: 1219
Loc: Texas/USA
My mother Eloise (pls keep on praying for her well-being) detests funerals so much she says she wouldn't even go to her own funeral if she could avoid it.

Viewing the body embalmed & in state really gives her the heebie-jeebies - what cracks her up is when she overhears somebody saying of the deceased at a wake, "My, doesn't he/she look NATURAL?"

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