Components to an Orthodox Funeral
Trisagion – brief (15 min) prayer service offered the evening before the funeral. The clergy can say a few words at this service. Light refreshments (coffee and cookies) are usually offered. This service usually takes place around 6:30 or 7 p.m.
All-Night Vigil—time when family and parishioners can sign-up to read psalms and pray in shifts from the close of the Trisagion to the beginning of the Funeral the next day.
Funeral – prayer service (1 hr) with hymns and readings and the opportunity at the end to venerate the body of the departed loved one and pay respects to the family. The priest may speak briefly at this service as well. This is often scheduled for 10 or 11 a.m. in the morning.
Interment – this is the brief service said at the gravesite. The interment can be public or private. Traditionally the interment is directly after the Funeral and before the Makaria, though for practicality some families choose to do the interment after the Makaria. Usually the procession to the cemetery involves a police-escorted motorcade.
Makaria – the luncheon offered by the family, either privately or publicly after the funeral. The makaria can be held at the church, at a restaurant or at a home. If the luncheon is at church, it is usually assumed that parishioners are invited. It is the family’s choice, however, to specify whether the church family is invited to the luncheon or not. The family has the opportunity to speak about the departed at this luncheon and decide if they would like to open that opportunity up to others. Traditionally fish is served because it is the first thing that Christ ate after His Resurrection. Metaxa (brandy) and paximadia (biscotti) are also traditional for after the funeral.
The family can bring a picture of the deceased and a vase of flowers to put on display for the Trisagion and makaria. Slideshows, videos and other displays are also appropriate at the makaria.
How St. John’s Can Help
First, please plan to be in touch with one of the Priests when your loved one is ill. As much as he is able, he will come and pray with the family and answer questions. He can also come and read the prayers prescribed for when someone is nearing death. Let a Priest know if you would like him to serve the funeral and/or if you would like to have the services at St. John and he will work with you to schedule the services.
Once the services are scheduled at St. John, the church will assume the responsibility of receiving flowers that are sent, e-mailing parishioners about the schedule for the service and coordinating sign-ups for the all-night vigil. Unless the family makes other arrangements, we can also arrange the chanting for the services.
The Myrrh Bearers (women’s group) has extended a standing offer to make coffee and provide cookies for after the Trisagion, if the family would like them to do this. Please let Fr. Theodore or the Parish Administrator know if you would like this.
Sacaraments and mysteries are part of stewardship in the church. There is no cost for use of the church facilities for a funeral, nor for the priest to perform the sacrament.
It is appropriate for the family to offer a $150 honorarium to the person chanting the funeral service. Chanters usually have other jobs and therefore they will have had to arrange time off work or away from their other responsibilities to attend both the funeral and the trisagion to offer their skills.
There is no expectation, but some families choose to make a free-will offering to the church in memory of the reposed.
Please contact the parish office for the most update list of recommended funeral homes, caterers and other important contacts.
Orthodox Christians do not cremate their bodies. Ideally, they will not undergo embalming either, though this depends on the circumstances and timing of the funeral. The family should discuss their wishes with the funeral home. The family may wish to have the body of the deceased at home until it is time to prepare for the funeral. The Priests can answer questions regarding the traditions of the Church. Richard, at Riverview Abbey, will be able to speak to the requirements of the State of Oregon.
Orthodox funerals are open casket.
Funeral services are permitted on any day of the year, except for Sundays and Holy Friday, unless permission is granted by the Archbishop or Metropolitan.
Memorials for the departed are served on the 8th day, 40th day, 6 month anniversary and then annually on the anniversary of the death. Kollyva is offered at each memorial. Please make sure to schedule each of these memorials with one of the Priests or the church office.
Trisagion services can also be offered at the gravesite on each anniversary of the repose.
Memorial services may not be chanted from Saturday of Lazarus through the Sunday of Thomas or on major feast days. The traditional day to serve memorials is Saturday, which is the day for commemorating the departed. At St. John the practice is to serve memorials directly before Great Vespers and share the kollyva after Great Vespers.