Monday, July 21, 2014

Christian Burial

Cremation versus the Orthodox Practice of Burial

The first time I ever attended a funeral service where cremation of the body of the deceased had taken place was in Portland, Oregon, many years ago. An Episcopal priest friend had died and had requested his body be cremated. Walking into the church and seeing a small box sitting before the altar was a shock for me. Cremation was always something only non-believers practiced, Christians having always viewed cremation as something of pagan roots. I clearly remember feeling cheated out of that last goodby, unable as I was to view my friend for one last time.

In ancient times pagans always either burned the bodies of their dead, or left them for birds to consume, whereas Jews and Christians placed their dead in tombs, or in the earth, awaiting the bodily resurrection. For Christians the belief that the body was the temple of the Holy Spirit and therefore sacred, made the burning of the body unacceptable. Bodies of our dead were always to be treated with great reverence. From the earliest of times the bodies of the martyrs and saints were buried in the catacombs, their tombs used as altars for the celebration of the Eucharistic offering, catacombs often being the only safe place for believers to worship without threat of arrest.

One of my earliest memories was going to a family plot in Spokane, WA. with my maternal grandmother. She would lay flowers on the graves of her loved ones, family members who were long dead before I was even born. Even though many had been gone from this life for a few generations, to my grandmother they were still alive. She would sit on a tombstone, flowers in hand, and tell me about her sisters, her parents, and other family members. Her shared memories were made all the more real seeing the names of these loved ones chiseled in stone. The ritual of visiting graves was common back in those days, with families keeping alive the memories, while showing their love and respect for their dead relatives by tending to the graves, and leaving flowers. It was even quite common, especially in Western Europe, for friends and families to take picnics to graveyards.

There is also the role cemeteries can play in our own spiritual lives, for they are clear reminders of our own mortality. I have already picked the plot where my own remains will be placed on the grounds of our monastery. Seeing where one will eventually be laid to rest is a good way to remember one's own eventual death, reminding ourselves of our own mortality, and to use our remaining days wisely.

The Orthodox Church forbids the cremated remains of anyone to be brought into the temple for services, or for any other reason, and funeral services over cremated remains is strictly forbidden. The practice is seen as a denial of the bodily resurrection, not because God can't raise the dead from ashes, but because the practice does not reflect the Church's teaching that the body of a believer housed the Holy Spirit. It is also ignoring the fact that believers receive, in their lifetime, the very Body and Blood of Christ, and the body is therefore made holy in preparation for that day when we shall be united in both body and soul, to live forever with God.

My parents converted to Orthodoxy in their mid seventies and are buried in the church yard next to Saint John the Baptist Church in Post Falls, Idaho. Having them in an Orthodox cemetery, side by side, means a lot to me, and I visit their graves whenever I am in Northern Idaho on visits to my family. Having a plot to visit continues that connection and allows me a chance to show my love for them by placing flowers on their graves as I offering prayers for their souls. It saddens me that so many people have deprived themselves of such moments, having spread their loved one's ashes over golf courses or on beaches. The loss of family cemeteries has contributed, I am convinced, to the breakdown of the all important extended families that were at one time so important to the cohesiveness of family values.

For those who would say that cremation is more ecologically sound, I would point out that the particles dispersed in the atmosphere are by no means good for the environment. A new way of burial, known as green burial, is gaining popularity throughout the country and is far more ecologically sound than cremation. Green burials require a simple pine coffin with no metal, nails or glue, using only wooden pegs and natural materials. The body is not embalmed (in keeping with Orthodox tradition), so nothing goes into the earth that is not natural. This is one of the most inexpensive ways of internment and is in keeping with the canons of the Orthodox Church. This is the way my own body will be laid to rest.

With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon

Photo: My mother's funeral at Saint John the Baptist Orthodox Church in Post Falls, Idaho, January 2008.
 

Monday July 21, 2014 / July 8, 2014
7th Week after Pentecost. Tone five.

Appearance of the "Kazan" Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos (1579).
Holy Great-martyr Procopius of Caesarea in Palestine (303).
St. Procopius, fool-for-Christ, wonderworker of Ustiug (Vologda) (1303).
New Hieromartyrs Alexander and Theodore priests (1918).
Righteous Procopius, fool-for-Christ of Usya (Vologda) (17th c.).
Miracle of the Annunciation Icon of the Mother of God at Ustiug (1290).
Reverence list of an "Kazan" Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos: at Moscow (1612), Kazan (1579), Petersburg (1721) and Shlisselburg (1702); "Iaroslav" (1588), "Viazniky" (1624), "Nizhnelomov" (1543), "Tobolsk" (1661), "Kaplunovka" (1689), "Tambov" (1695), "Penza" (1717), "Peschanka" (1754), "Chimeev" (1770), "Vysochinovsky" (18th c.), "Vyshensky" (1812).
"Jacobshtad" Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos (17th c.)
Venerable Theophilus the Myrrh-gusher of Pantocrator Monastery, Mt. Athos (1548) (Greek).
New Martyr Anastasius at Constantinople (1743) (Greek).
Martyrs Epictetus and Astion at Halmyris in Scythia Minor (290) (Romania).
Blessed King Edgar the Peaceable (975) (Celtic & British).
Martyr Theodosia, mother of Great-martyr Procopius. (Greek).
Martyr Mirdat the King of Kartli (410) (Georgia).
Translation of the relics (1779) of Venerable Demetrius Basarbov of Bulgaria (1685).
Synaxis of Saints of Diveyevo: Alexandra, Martha, and Helen.
St. Grimbald, hieromonk of Winchester.
Translation of the relicts of St. Withburga, hermitess of East Dereham.
Virgim-martyr Urith (Hieritha) of Chittlehampton.

You can read the life of the saint by clicking on the highlighted name.


"Blogs and social networks give us new opportunities for the Christian mission...Not to be present there means to display our helplessness and lack of care for the salvation of our brothers." His Holiness Patriarch Kirill

The Scripture Readings for the Day



2 Timothy 2:1-10


Be Strong in Grace

2 You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure[a] hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. Consider what I say, and may[b] the Lord give you understanding in all things.
Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.



Matthew 10:37-11:1

37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

A Cup of Cold Water

40 “He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41 He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”

John the Baptist Sends Messengers to Jesus

11 Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities.


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All-Merciful Saviour Monastery is a monastery of the Western American Diocese, under the omophor of His Eminence Kyrill, Archbishop of San Francisco and Western America. The Monastery is a non-profit 501 C3 organization under IRS regulations. All donations are therefore tax deductible. We depend on the generosity of our friends and benefactors. You can donate to the monastery through PayPal, or by sending donations directly to the monastery's mailing address.

All-Merciful Saviour Monastery  
PO Box 2420
Vashon Island, WA 98070-2420 USA

Abbot Tryphon's email address:
frtryphon@vashonmonks.com










1 comment:

  1. May God grant you a long life.

    ReplyDelete