what to expect at an orthodox funeral (3)

What to Expect at an Orthodox Funeral?

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    Funerals in the Greek Orthodox tradition follow a set of rituals and customs, just like in many other cultures. Funerals are typically conducted in the same manner for the vast majority of Greeks no matter where they live.

    When a funeral takes place outside of Greece, it is common practise for members of the deceased person's family to confer with the community's priest in order to confirm that all of the religious rites are performed appropriately.

    A funeral in the Greek Orthodox tradition typically consists of five stages, which are as follows in general terms:

    • The wake preparations, known as Awake, begin the day before the funeral.
    • The funeral service will be held.
    • Burial ceremony
    • Post funeral luncheon
    • Memorial service

    Those who have been baptised in the Greek Orthodox Church are eligible for a funeral in the Greek Orthodox tradition; however, if the deceased person had broken any of the canon laws, then the funeral cannot take place in the Greek Orthodox tradition. Here at Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals, we provide Orthodox funeral services.

    Funeral FAQs

    Typically, members of the immediate family stand in the receiving line at a funeral. The immediate family typically includes the spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, grandparents, and in-laws of the deceased.

    In a funeral procession, the vehicle directly behind the hearse carries the close family members – partner, children, parents or siblings – and transports them to the venue. Some processions have more than one vehicle, with mourners travelling in their own cars behind the bereaved family.

    The Irish wake is a well-known funeral tradition where the family of the deceased covers all mirrors in the home. To hide the physical body from the soul, the family turns mirrors to face the wall. Some Irish superstitions say that if you look in a mirror long enough, you'll see a devil looking over your shoulder.

    Medical schools in the early 1800s bought cadavers for anatomical study and dissection, and some people supplied the demand by digging up fresh corpses. Gravesites reaching six feet helped prevent farmers from accidentally plowing up bodies.

    As early as the 1700s, gloves were given to pallbearers by the deceased's family to handle the casket. They were a symbol of purity, and considered a symbol of respect and honor.

    What Is the Orthodox Church?

    The spread of the Christian church across the eastern Roman empire, also known as the Byzantine empire, in the first few centuries after Jesus led to the development of the Orthodox branch of Christianity.

    Greek culture and language were much more influential than Roman culture and language on it.

    Relations between the two power bases, Constantinople and Rome, became increasingly tense over the course of several centuries due to political and theological disagreements.

    The Eastern Church, which was centred in Constantinople, which is now Istanbul, and the Western Church parted ways in 1054 as a result of the Great Schism, which was caused by disagreements regarding the Roman Pope's claim to supremacy and the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. This resulted in the split between the two churches (centred in Rome).

    There are approximately 200 million people around the world who follow the Eastern Orthodox faith. With more than 563,000 people living in Australia.

    In 1898, the city of Sydney became the location of the first Orthodox Church to be established in Australia. This event was made possible through the collaborative efforts of Orthodox Christians hailing from a variety of traditions.

    The Patriarch of Constantinople established a Greek Orthodox diocese in the year 1924. After the end of World War II, there was a sizeable increase in the number of people in Australia who adhered to the Greek Orthodox faith as a result of immigration from Europe.

    Following the conclusion of the Russo-Japanese war at the beginning of the 20th century and the subsequent Russian Revolution, Russian Orthodox people started migrating to Australia.

    In 1922, the first permanent Russian Orthodox priest arrived in Brisbane, and in 1926, the city saw the construction of the first Russian Orthodox church. After the end of World War II, the Orthodox Christian communities of Serbian, Macedonian, and Ukrainian origin all founded churches in Australia.

    Death Rituals of the Orthodox Church

    what to expect at an orthodox funeral

    First Panikhida

    In the moments that immediately follow a person's passing, a special memorial service or vigil known as the "First Pannikhida" is observed. After this, the body is prepared for burial by being washed and dressed in appropriate attire. This expression of love is traditionally carried out by members of the deceased person's family as well as friends.

    A strip of paper filled with hymns is called a "Crown," icons of Christ and Saints, and crosses are placed on the head and hands of the deceased person. Psalms, litanies, hymns, and prayers are all included in the Panikhida service that is being performed.

    After the clothing of the deceased has been removed, the priest will sprinkle holy water on all four sides of the coffin, and then the deceased will be placed inside the coffin. The wake will then get underway straight away. In addition, the Trisagion Hymn is sung several times throughout the course of the vigil. This continues all night long, up until the point where the body is taken to the church.

    The body of a deceased member of an Orthodox family will typically be displayed in the home for three days after the death, during which time the family will attend to funeral preparations and pay their respects. In the past, people were traditionally laid out on the dining table, but these days the majority of people choose a casket instead.

    An icon corner can be found in the living space of some Orthodox families. This includes images of holy people, as well as icons and candles.

    The head of the deceased person should be positioned so that it is the part of their body that is closest to the icon corner, as this is how it is done in Orthodox funeral traditions. If you are looking for funeral directors in Melbourne, Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals is able to assist you in personalising and individualising each funeral service to make it a truly memorable experience and a fitting tribute. 

    The Body Goes to the Church

    Following the completion of the Panikhida ceremony at the home of the deceased, the body is then transported to the church. A procession is led by the Cross and various banners. The censer is carried by the priest as he walks in front of the casket. Everyone should sing the Trisagion while walking in the parade.

    As soon as the funeral procession reaches the church, the casket is positioned either in the middle of the nave or near the altar.

    A Panikhida is started after the priest has sprinkled incense around the casket. The Psalter is being read in its entirety all the way up until the beginning of the services.

    The Orthodox Funeral

    Readings from the Bible, hymns, and psalms are all common components of Orthodox funeral services. Psalm 118 is frequently chosen for recitation at Orthodox funerals, and its first verse begins with the words:

    "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." ('Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.')

    During the funeral service, the mourners will walk counterclockwise around the open coffin, taking the time to either kiss the person who has passed away or lay flowers upon them. It's possible for the priest to put some dirt and holy oil in the casket. After that, he was covering the deceased individual with their burial shroud by pulling it over their head.

    The Last Kiss

    This is a symbolic farewell that is given to the deceased by a "last kiss," during which time the faithful come forwards and place a last kiss to the person who has passed away. They will kiss the phylactery, which is a paper with a holy hymn inscribed on it that is placed on the forehead of the deceased, as well as the icon or cross that is held in his hand.

    Hymns will be sung, either by the priest or by a choir, to help those who are mourning work through their emotions.

    Following the final kiss, the choir will recite the phrase "Memory Eternal" three times, and then the shroud will be pulled over the face of the deceased person if they have one. The lid is now on the coffin.

    Symbols Used in the Funeral Service.


    Refract the light that Christ has given to the world through the proclamation of the Gospel, serving as a beacon for both the living and the dead right up until the end of the world.


    An offering of incense is made to God on behalf of the soul of the person who has passed away.

    An Icon of Jesus, a Cross or a Bible

    The icon is placed on the chest of the deceased to represent the deceased person's faith in Jesus Christ, who is believed to have redeemed his soul.

    Wine and Oil 

    The body can be anointed with wine and oil; the wine represents the blood that flows through our veins, and the oil proclaims the "resurrection." Both can be poured over the body.


    The act of scattering earth over the coffin in the shape of a cross is meant to convey the message that man is Earth and that he will eventually return to Earth.


    A reminder that man is "earth and ashes" is provided by the act of emptying the ashes from the censer into the grave.

    At the Graveside

    When the Panikhida finally reached the grave, they began to chant once more.

    It is possible to nail the lid shut on the coffin. The presence of four nails is meant to be a symbolic representation of the four nails that were used to fasten Christ to the cross.

    Following the words spoken by the priest, members of the family and close friends place handfuls of dirt on top of the casket.

    "Open your arms wide, Earth, and make room for him (her) who was fashioned from you in the past by the hand of God, and who now returns back to you, the one who gave him (her) birth. The Creator has appropriated for himself everything that was fashioned in his likeness; it is appropriate for you to do the same with everything that is rightfully yours."

    After the Funeral


    Following the traditional Orthodox funeral service, there is a reception held in the home of the deceased. Either in the family home or at the gravesite.

    Mourners are treated to a meal known as a "pink," which typically includes both food and drink. Blini, which is a type of pancake, fish pie, and koliva, which is a dish made of wheat and fruit, are some of the traditional foods that will be served at this gathering.

    Friends and family of the deceased come together in this location to share stories, laughs, and meals as they honour the life of their loved one. Because those who have passed away will have a home waiting for them in Heaven, and they will begin a new life there.


    In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the commemoration of departed loved ones takes the form of a liturgical meal called koliva, which is made from wheat that has been boiled.

    It is crafted with wheat kernels and a variety of other components, including sesame seeds, almonds, ground walnuts, cinnamon, sugar, pomegranate seeds, raisins, anise, and parsley, among others.

    Orthodox Christians see the koliva as a representation of both death and the subsequent resurrection.

    Wheat, which is planted and grows to new life, is a symbol of loved ones who have passed away in the hope of resurrection and are connected to scripture. Wheat is a crop that is planted and grows to new life.

    If a grain of wheat doesn't get buried and die, it won't produce any more grain; however, if it does get buried and die, it will produce a lot of grain. This is what I say to you with absolute certainty. (John 12:24).

    Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals is here to assist you in making each funeral and cremation services a unique and moving memorial to your loved one.

    40th Day of Mourning.

    The 40th Day marks the end of the 40-day memorial period and, according to the traditions of Eastern Orthodoxy, it is significant in more ways than one.

    It is commonly believed that the soul of the deceased will remain on Earth for 40 days after death, during which time it will travel back to the person's home, travel to locations in which the deceased previously resided, and visit their new grave.

    On the 40th day, the family gets together, and they invite those who want to remember the deceased to join them. They go to the church and the cemetery, and then they have a memorial meal at the house.

    Prayers are offered during the 40th Day panihida service at the Church to console those who are still alive and to remind those in possession of the fleeting nature of life.

    The wise words of the day are as follows:

    "We will no longer come to you; instead, we will come to you," is what we told you as we parted ways.

    This is an excerpt from a presentation that was given during History Week 2018 with the theme of "Life and Death."

    Traditional Greek Orthodox Funerals

    The Archdiocese estimates that there are approximately 540 parishes dispersed across the entirety of the United States. This suggests that the rituals associated with funerals might shift slightly from one family to the next, within my congregation, and across the country. The following is a description of the general funeral practises associated with the religion.

    According to the teachings of the Greek Orthodox Church, when a person dies, their soul departs from their body and a new life begins for them.

    The experience shapes the person's behaviour, character, and communion with God, taking on the qualities of those things. After some time has passed, when Christ returns, there will be a final judgement, and each person's soul will either spend eternity in Heaven or Hell.

    Funeral services in the Greek Orthodox tradition consist of the following five parts:

    A Wake

    The night before the funeral, there is a ritual known as the wake that is meant to pay respects to the deceased. It is possible that it will take place at the mortuary or the funeral home, where members of the deceased's extended family and friends who are in attendance may also deliver eulogies.

    In the Greek Orthodox church, staying awake through the night before a funeral is something of a tradition for members of the congregation. During the Trisagion (also known as the "Thrice-Holy") service, loved ones and friends of the deceased person may be invited to speak about the deceased person, and a priest may preside over the service.

    During the wake, the priest will hold a "Trisagion Service," also known as a "Thrice Holy Service," for the family of the deceased as well as for the deceased person. This service will last for ten minutes. There is a threefold repetition of the phrase "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us."

    Funeral Service

    The memorial service can take place at the funeral home or the church on any day of the week, with the exception of Sundays and the Saturday before Easter.

    The priest is in charge of leading the funeral service, which may include prayers, readings, or hymns that the congregation sings together.

    Toward the end of the prayers, the priest will typically offer uplifting words of wisdom to the mourners about life and death.

    The casket is always positioned so that it faces east, with the feet pointing in the direction of the altar. Mourners are able to pay their respects to the deceased and get one last look at the deceased person thanks to the open casket.

    A common custom involves saying goodbye with a kiss that is referred to as "The Kiss of Peace and Anointing." Mourners who pass the casket will traditionally lay a flower there as they pass.

    At the funeral service, which will take place either at a funeral home or a Greek Orthodox Church, there will be hymns, prayers, and readings from the bible.

    In addition, the priest may deliver a sermon and talk about the person who has passed away. It is likely that the casket will be open, and attendance at the viewing of the deceased will be voluntary.

    The casket will be positioned so that it faces east, with the feet pointing in the direction of the altar, as is customary. During the funeral service, attendees have the option of expressing their condolences to the family or greeting them with the phrase "Memory Eternal."

    Non-believers are not required to kiss an icon or a cross that is placed on the breast of the deceased person; however, believers are permitted to do so.

    Following that, the priest will lead the service and will read from a number of different texts. Even those who don't believe are expected to take part in the service and stand with the congregation. At the cemetery, each attendee is asked to place a flower on top of the coffin.


    The Trisagion Service will typically perform once more during the brief graveside service that is customarily held. There is also the possibility of singing hymns, which is then followed by a blessing from the priest. The Greek Orthodox Church did not traditionally sanction the practise of cremation for any reason. Cremation is not sanctioned by the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which maintains its previous position on the matter. You should talk to your priest or bishop if you want to be cremated after you die and plan to have a funeral service in accordance with the tenets of Greek Orthodox religion.

    Funeral Luncheon

    A funeral luncheon, also known as a malaria, is served at many Orthodox funerals after the service (mercy meal). Fish, a traditional Christian emblem, is frequently included on the menu. There is no obligation to have lunch.

    Memorial Service

    In the majority of instances, a memorial service will take place on the Sunday immediately following the funeral. Additionally, the family is welcome to continue the Trisagion Service at specific milestones or whenever they so desire. Arranging a funeral in Melbourne can be difficult. That's why Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals is here to help guide you through the process and make sure that the wishes of your loved one are fulfilled.

    Eastern Orthodox Funeral Traditions

    what to expect at an orthodox funeral (2)

    Although there are varying degrees of orthodoxy within the Eastern Orthodox Church, Eastern Orthodox Christians generally hold the belief that one can attain salvation by living holy lives that are modelled after Christ. This concept is known as deification or theosis.

    In Eastern Orthodoxy, there are no traditional Western concepts of Heaven and Hell; rather, there is the idea that both Heaven and Hell are the experiences of being in God's eternal presence. In other words, Heaven and Hell are synonymous. Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals will always find creative ways to pull costs in line with your budget.

    For one who loves God, God's eternal presence is Heaven; for one who does not love God, God's eternal presence in Hell.

    When Death Is Imminent

    When the end of life is near for an Eastern Orthodox Christian, a priest should be called to the home to hear the final confession and to give Holy Communion to the individual who is passing away.

    After Death Has Occurred

    Following the passing of the person, the priest will lead those who are present in prayers for the person's soul to be set free.


    The Eastern Orthodox Church frowns upon the practise of cremation and forbids it.

    Organ Donation/donation to Medical Research

    There are two schools of thought within the Eastern Orthodox Church on the topic of organ donation and donating one's body to science for the purpose of medical research:

    One school of thought contends that organ donation is an act of mutilation, while another maintains that it is the most selfless act one can perform because it can save or improve the life of another person.

    In the absence of a person's written consent, it is unethical to remove their organs in any circumstance, regardless of the divergent viewpoints that your church may hold.


    The practise of embalming is not only permitted but also sometimes required by law.

    Attitude Toward Suicide

    Those who commit suicide are not eligible for an Eastern Orthodox funeral because the Church does not acknowledge death by suicide as a valid cause of death.

    Preparing the Body

    The Eastern Orthodox funeral tradition begins with the preparation of the body, which entails washing the body and dressing it in the appropriate clothing.

    This act is traditionally carried out by members of the family and close friends in the presence of a priest. There is a possibility that the deceased individual will be found dressed in the uniform that they wore while serving in the armed forces.

    If the deceased person had served in an official capacity within the Church, then the appropriate robes would be worn at the funeral.

    After the deceased person's body has been washed and dressed, it can then be prepared to be placed inside the casket. After the holy water has been sprinkled on all four sides of the casket by the priest, the deceased person will be placed inside.

    The viewing, Wake, Or Visitation Before an Eastern Orthodox Funeral

    After the deceased person's body has been appropriately cleaned and prepared, the priest will start the First Panikhida, which is a prayer service for the departed.

    The wake can now officially be considered to have started. The wake will continue until the body is moved to the church for the funeral service, which will follow immediately after.

    Despite the fact that it is now only one day long, the wake is traditionally held for three consecutive days. During the course of the path, the Psalter, also known as the Book of Psalms, is read out loud by members of the participant's family and friends, and subsequent Panikhidas are carried out.

    The Eastern Orthodox Funeral Service

    Following the wake, the body is moved to the church so that the funeral service can take place there. The transport of the cross typically takes the form of a procession with the cross serving as the centrepiece.

    The hymn Trisagion is sung as the priest carries the censer in front of the casket while leading the procession of people who are preparing the body for burial.

    Even if there is not going to be a traditional procession, the Trisagion should still be recited at the end of the wake before the body is brought to the church for the funeral service. This should take place before the body is brought in.

    When they arrive at the church, they open the casket. A bowl of koliva, which is a dish made of boiled wheat with honey, should be placed close to the head of the coffin. This bowl should have a lit candle on top of it to represent the cyclical nature of life as well as the sweetness of Heaven.

    A crown or wreath with the Trisagion printed on it is placed on the head, and a small icon of Christ, the deceased's patron saint, or a cross is placed in the hand of the deceased or on the casket. The crown or wreath is then placed on the head.

    Candles that have been lit should be passed out to everyone in attendance and should be kept burning for the duration of the funeral service.

    Participants in the funeral service, including mourners and worshipers, are required to stand throughout the entirety of the service. During this time, the priest will lead the Divine Liturgy, say prayers, lead the Dismissal, and recite "Memory Eternal."

    In addition to that, Holy Communion might be given out. Mourners are encouraged to approach the casket after the service is over in order to "say goodbye" to the deceased and may kiss an icon or the Cross that is placed inside the coffin.

    After all, the mourners have had the opportunity to "say goodbye," and the casket has been removed from the church and taken to the cemetery. At this point, it is appropriate to sing the Trisagion once more.


    When they have arrived at the cemetery, the priest will conduct a brief burial service at the graveside. The Trisagion is read out loud once more.

    Post-Funeral Reception

    Following the interment of the body, friends and family of the deceased get together for a reception. During this time, they eat a meal that is referred to as a "mercy meal" and share their condolences with one another.

    Eastern Orthodox Mourning Period And Memorial Events

    Eastern Orthodox Christians observe a forty-day period of mourning following the death of a loved one. The third day, the ninth day, and the fortieth day, which are all contained within those forty days, each hold a unique and important significance.

    After the first forty days have passed, memorials are held at three months, six months, nine months, and one year, as well as on the anniversary of the person's passing for a minimum of seven years.

    The period of mourning can last up to a year for those who are close to the deceased. During this time, widows and widowers are permitted to wear only black clothing and are given Panikhidas on a regular basis.

    Let Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals help you select the type of funeral service that best fits your needs.

    Close relatives may also stay home from work for one week and avoid social gatherings for two months.

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