what to wear to a greek orthodox funeral

What to Wear to a Greek Orthodox Funeral?

You may be asking, "What's to wear to a Greek Orthodox funeral?"

There are no specific rules, but some customs keep in mind when deciding what to wear. 

When you live in a diverse area, you run into people from different cultures, backgrounds, and faith traditions. 

Every religious tradition has its way of conducting funeral services. 

For example, some Catholics prefer the priest to remain silent during Mass. Protestants will have a choir singing hymns. 

Non-religious people may choose not to wear black at all in observance of their beliefs about death and practical reasons like those who work with colour sensitive materials or want natural light on themselves rather than artificial lighting.

Greek Orthodox Church members take comfort that death isn't the end and life is everlasting. 

The Greek Orthodox Church believes that in life after death, the soul is reunited with the body and with Christ — and a deceased person hasn't just died; he's "fallen asleep." 

They believe life is everlasting and that the soul is reunited with the body and with Christ. This provides hope amid loss.

If you were to attend a funeral at a Greek Orthodox Church, what should you expect? 

Strong faith and a solid community base — it's what you can expect to encounter when someone in the Greek Orthodox Church has died. Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals will always find creative ways to pull costs in line with your budget.

You'll also get support and space to grieve. Death is a sacred time and an opportunity for spiritual reflection. It's also a time to express emotions and offer praise while you grieve.

What Is the Orthodox Church?

The Orthodox Church, also known as the Eastern Orthodox Church or Greek Orthodox Church, is the second-largest Christian Church. 

Eastern Orthodoxy is practised all over the world, particularly in Greece, Eastern Europe and Russia.

Greek Orthodox Beliefs About Death and Dying

The Greek Orthodox believe that when an individual dies, the soul and body are separated. 

The body is returned to the earth and decomposes but is not lost to the soul. The soul does not "return" to heaven; it meets God for the first time and awaits the body's resurrection.

The Eastern Orthodox religion has differing views on the afterlife compared to other Western Christian beliefs. 

For followers of Greek Orthodoxy, the idea of a Heaven or Hell is a more abstract interpretation than actual places. 

Those who love God interpret his eternal presence in the afterlife as heavenly, whereas those who do not love God interpret his immortal existence as hellish.

Body and Soul Are One

The Greek Orthodox church teaches that soul and body are created together at conception. 

Though separated at death, at the second coming of Christ, the body will be resurrected, spiritualised, and united with the soul to live together eternally in God's kingdom. 

This is why those of the Greek Orthodox faith do not cremate the bodies of their loved ones.

Etiquette

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What to Wear to an Orthodox Funeral

Some branches of Eastern Orthodoxy will require you to be dressed modestly when entering the Church. This means you should avoid showing too much skin and cover your arms and legs.

For Orthodox funerals, traditional dark, formal clothing will be appropriate in most cases unless the bereaved inform you otherwise.

Attendees dress in dark, modest clothing. Men wear dress suits with a tie and women wear dresses. The Church encourages men and women to cover their arms and legs. 

Greeting the family at an Orthodox funeral is very important. 

It is a tradition in this religion to offer condolences and prayers. The best time to greet the family is after the burial service or at the luncheon that follows the burial. 

The formal name of the luncheon is Makaria, and fish is usually served.  

People approach the casket to say their final goodbyes at the end of the church service. It's common to bow and kiss the cross or object on the coffin. 

The congregation stands for the service whether pews are present. This applies to everyone except the elderly and people who have difficulty standing. 

But there is no requirement in the Orthodox Church that those in mourning must wear black. 

While some Orthodox do this, and while the custom is incredibly ingrained in many foreign countries and cultures, it is not a teaching or requirement of the Church. 

One generally finds that at funerals, the clergy wear white rather than black, as our mourning is observed in the hope we hold in the resurrection and the eternal life God promises those who place their faith and hope in His love—hope that is best signified by white, rather than black.

Dos and Don'ts of a Greek Orthodox Funeral

The following are some dos and don'ts when attending a Greek Orthodox funeral service.

  • Women should wear dark, sombre clothing. Men should wear dark jackets and ties.
  • Make sure to sign the guest book.
  • Ushers at the service will advise where to sit. If you arrive late, enter quietly.
  • Don't take photos or record the service in any way.
  • Do stand when the congregation stands and participate.
  • Do greet the family and offer condolences.
  • Do make a brief visit to the home of the bereaved after the funeral.

What to Expect at an Orthodox Funeral

All people present at an Orthodox funeral service should stand throughout, except of course for those who have trouble standing, such as the elderly or disabled.

Mourners are encouraged to approach the casket after the service to say goodbye. Members of the Orthodox Church may choose to kiss the icon or cross in the coffin but do not feel obliged to do so if they belong to another faith.

Greek Orthodox Pre-Service Rituals

When someone in the Church has died, the family will:

  • Notify the priest of the local parish and a funeral home. 
  • Coordinate all prayer service and funeral details with the priest. 
  • Communicate its wishes to the funeral home once the details are set. 
  • Write the obituary once the funeral home and Church have agreed on a date. 

The family will help prepare the body in Eastern Orthodox practices. 

In other words, family members bathe and clothe the body immediately after death. This is often done with a priest present. 

The priest will bless the casket with holy water once the body is in the coffin. Modern-day Orthodox families may opt to have the funeral home prepare the body for the wake. 

Once the body has been prepared, a priest will lead a prayer service called the Panikhida. This marks the beginning of a three-day wake. During the path, the Book of Psalms is recited by family and friends. 

Trisagion Service

A Trisagion is a prayer service performed by a priest, and it happens immediately following the death or on the night before the funeral. 

A Trisagion may also occur at the gravesite after the service and memorial days set by the Church. 

A priest leads the prayers in a call-and-response format. 

The family members and the church community attend. The first Trisagion can take place in the home of the deceased or at the funeral home. 

One of the lines recited is, "Holy God, holy and mighty, holy immortal one, have mercy upon us." 

The Trisagion is a request for mercy for the deceased and for everyone who is still living. 

Preparing for the Funeral

The services usually include a wake and funeral mass in a church. Like many conservative Christian religions, cremation is not allowed. 

The Greek Orthodox Church believes in the resurrection of the body and views cremation as a sin. 

The family members recite readings, and they may also serve as pallbearers. The priest is the only one allowed to recite prayers in Church and give the eulogy.

Funeral Service and Traditions

The funeral service and traditions follow a specific order. Visit Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals to know more about our prepaid funeral service and find the best funeral option for your unique situation. 

Tip: No matter what a family's culture and traditions are, funeral planning is complex. So are the many other tasks you might face after the death of a loved one. If you'd like some help and guidance through the process, check out our post-loss checklist.  

Chanting of Psalm 119

The funeral service begins with the chanting of the Amomos, Greek for blameless. 

The first words of Psalm 119 are, "Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord." 

After the Amomos, a short litany is said with petitions for the departed.

Funeral Praises: Evlogetaria

After the chanting of Psalm 119 is the Evlogetaria. 

These are hymns of praise that have theological content and are solemnly chanted. Each Evlogetaria is preceded by Psalm 119:12, "Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your statutes."

The Orthodox service does not place much emphasis on funeral music. Some services may have hymns led by a choir or the priest. The Trisagion might be sung at the closing of the church service. 

Kontakion

After the Evlogetaria, the Kontakion is chanted: "With the Saints give rest, O Christ, to your servant's soul where there is no pain, nor sorrow, nor suffering, but life everlasting." 

As the hymn is chanted, the priest passes incense over the deceased, those in attendance, the altar table, and icons.

Hymns of the Eight Tones

Following the Kontakion's chanting comes hymns that express the mixed emotions of grief and consolation in affirmation of the promise of rest and eternal life for the departed, known as the Idiomela. 

Each hymn is sung in the order of the eight tones of Byzantine chant.

Scripture Readings

The service also includes two Scripture lessons that reflect the Church's belief in the reality of the death and resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of the deceased's body to unite with their soul.

Prayers and Dismissal

Following the Scripture readings, the priest repeats an earlier litany and offers a prayer for the deceased's repose. 

The dismissal prayer once again introduces the hope of the resurrection. After this prayer, those in attendance sing, "May your memory be eternal."

The Kiss of Peace

The final farewell greeting to the deceased follows the dismissal prayer as the family and others come forward to view the body. 

Hymns are sung, inviting viewers to offer a kiss to the deceased, an expression of love and an affirmation that the departed is worthy of fulfilling God's promises.

Greek Funeral Flowers

Flowers are present on many occasions. White flowers of various kinds are common for funeral services. 

The colour white represents mourning, and white lilies represent peace. Church members and friends often send plants and bouquets in memory of the deceased.

Flowers are often passed out during the prayer service at the gravesite. After the service, each person usually bows and places his or her flower on the casket.

The Anointing

After the family and others have said their farewells, the priest anoints the deceased with oil and sprinkles the body with earth, saying the words, "to earth you shall return." 

The casket is then closed, and attendees are invited to greet the family in the front pew and pay their respects.

The Burial

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Cremation is forbidden in Orthodox funerals. The family can be refused a religious funeral if their loved one has been cremated. However, embalming is allowed in preparation for burial.

After the funeral service, the priest, the family, and others proceed to the cemetery. Once there, the priest again chants the Trisagion. 

Family and friends approach the casket to pay their last respects before the closing of the casket. A procession to the cemetery will begin as the Trisagion Hymn is sung again.

Before the burial, the priest may pour olive oil and earth in the shape of a cross on the coffin to represent passages in holy texts. 

Wheat may also be poured, primarily if the service is based on Slavic or Arabic traditions.

Flowers are often passed out during the prayer service at the gravesite. 

Before the body is lowered into the grave to await the resurrection, the priest usually sprinkles soil in the shape of a cross, and each person present places one flower on the casket.

Meal of Mercy

A making or "Meal of Mercy" is provided by family members of the deceased's congregation. 

The Meal of Mercy may be held in the church hall, a restaurant, or the deceased's home shortly after the burial.

After an Orthodox Funeral and Orthodox Mourning Periods

Orthodox Christians have a 40-day mourning period in which they avoid social gatherings and traditionally only wear black clothing. A widow or widower may wear only black for a year or even two years from the Greek Orthodox Church.

The bereaved will usually not go to work for a week after the funeral. After this bereavement period, memorials are celebrated after three months, six months, nine months and every year anniversary for at least seven years.

Greek Orthodox Funerals: Faq

Greek Orthodox funerals can be more formal and structured than other religious practices. It's helpful to ask questions before attending so that you can be prepared and respectful. 

Q: What Should You Say to Grieving Family Members at a Greek Orthodox Funeral? 

Many people will say, "May you have an abundant life," "Memory eternal," or "May his or her memory be eternal." 

If you are not Greek Orthodox and don't feel comfortable saying these things, that's okay. You might consider saying, "May his/her memory live on. I will be thinking of you during your time of grief." 

Q: How Long Does the Funeral Usually Last?

A bit longer than the average funeral length, A Greek Orthodox funeral service is about 90 minutes long. 

The church ceremony is about one hour, and the burial is about 30 minutes. A luncheon is optional and lasts around one to three hours. 

Q: How Much Should You Donate to the Priest or Church That Hosted the Funeral? 

It's up to the family, but it will be listed in the obituary if there is a memorial fund. Donations go straight to the Greek Orthodox church. 

The standard donation amount is $25 – $50. Some families may give more if they are members of the Church. 

Q: Should I Approach the Open Casket? 

Yes, you are welcome to say your final goodbye to the deceased. If you belong to a different religious faith, it's not required. 

Seeing the physical body for the last time can provide closure — but it's up to you whether you approach the casket. 

Practices Vary

The actual practices of individual Greek families and congregations may vary. 

However, traditional Greek Orthodox funeral rituals are highly choreographed and participatory. Here at Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals, we provide Orthodox funeral services.

Those of the Greek Orthodox faith approach death with a strong belief that the body is simply in repose, waiting to reunite with its soul and that they will once again meet their loved one in God's Kingdom. 

Even years after a loved one's death, the family remembers and memorialises their death. 

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