Orthodox Funerals

Many of the older members of our communities in Melbourne came to Australia from Europe in search of a better life and opportunities for their families. They came from countries such as Greece, Macedonia, Croatia, Romania, Russia and Egypt where Orthodox religious faith and rituals were practiced by many. As these individuals made their own families, new generations were born and raised but the Orthodox traditions were not always clearly communicated or practiced. More often than not, the younger generations were not familiar with the funeral proceedings in accordance with the Orthodox tradition. This being said, when it comes time to farewell their elders it was always very important for them to have a funeral to honour their Orthodox faith.

The Last Rites

If a death is imminent, it is usual practice for the family to call a priest to come visit the dying person so that they can be given their last rites, Holy Communion and Last Confession are offered.  When the person passes, the funeral director is called and the deceased individual is taken into their care.

Preparation of the Body

In keeping with tradition, the deceased is washed and their body can be anointed with oil and wine.

In the Greek Orthodox tradition, the deceased can be covered with a white cotton shroud ‘Savano’ (Σάβανο). The Savano is what families will see when they come to participate in the dressing of their loved one. The outfit that is chosen for the deceased person goes over the top of the shroud. This is optional of course and at the family’s discretion.

Orthodox Funerals |

Funeral Service

The Viewing

This usually takes place before the service or it can take place the night before. In the Greek Orthodox tradition this is called the The Trisagion (Τρισάγιο).

Prayers are offered for the deceased asking God to grant rest to the departed soul so that it may receive mercy. The viewing is usually conducted with an open coffin, giving everyone the opportunity to view the deceased and pay their respects.

Departing the Family Home

On the day of the Orthodox Funeral Service the hearse will arrive at the family home so that the deceased can depart from their home one last time accompanied by their family.

When the funeral party arrives at the family home, the funeral director collects the bottle of oil and red wine and the bowl of boiled wheat that the family has prepared and places it in the hearse.  It is usual for a member of the family to incense the deceased as they say their farewells and prayers from the home where they lived while they make a sign of the cross three times.  The funeral cortege then departs the family home and makes its way to the church.

Orthodox Funerals |

The Orthodox Funeral Service

The coffin is wheeled or carried into Church feet first and it is placed so the deceased is facing the altar. It is tradition that the family members are pallbearers, however the funeral directors are always there to support and assist.

For a Greek Orthodox funeral service, the coffin is usually open allowing family and friends to view, kiss and bid their loved one farewell.  An icon of the Resurrection is placed either in the coffin or next to the coffin on a stand.

As family and friends arrive, our team will welcome everyone and offer them to record their name in the guest book and hand out memorial cards or booklets that the family may have made. The Orthodox service is usually conducted in the language of the church whether it’s Greek, Romanian, Russian, Egyptian or Macedonian, sometimes it is also conducted in English as well but this is rare.

Photos of the deceased person and personal family eulogies are not usually permitted in the Orthodox Church setting but sometimes if the family prepare a eulogy, the priest may read it on the family’s behalf.

The Orthodox Graveside Service

At the graveside the priest delivers the final committal prayers and the coffin is lowered into the grave. The priest then pours the bottle of oil and red wine, otherwise known as hyssop over the coffin in the form of a cross. The wine represents the last cleansing and the oil represents the last anointing. The priest then places sand in the coffin, again in the form of a cross, which symbolizes returning the body to the earth.