When death occurs Upon learning about the death, telephone or visit the family to offer condolences. Flowers may be sent, or the family may suggest memorial contributions be made in lieu of flowers. It is also appropriate to send food to the home of the bereaved either upon initially hearing about the death or after the funeral.
Treatment of the Body Embalming is accepted. The body is usually viewed during the funeral. Cremation is frowned upon and is cause for the Church to deny holding an Orthodox funeral. A wake or viewing may be held at the mortuary the night before the funeral.
Trisagion The Trisagion Service is an extremely abbreviated memorial service. The Trisagion is often celebrated on the eve of an individual's funeral, as well as on anniversaries of a person's death, and on other occasions. It mostly consists of hymns and condoling greetings.
Funeral or memorial services The Orthodox funeral ceremony is usually held in the church of the deceased or a funeral home within two to three days of the death. The ceremony can from 30 to 60 minutes. The officiants include a bishop, the chief celebrant, a priest, who may be the chief celebrant or the assistant to the bishop, and the deacon, sub-deacon and altar server, all of whom assist the bishop or priest. In most Orthodox churches, only officiating bishops and priests use a text at a funeral ceremony. A program will be distributed indicating the order of the ceremony. It is not appropriate to take pictures or record the service.
The Bells During the procession, the bells are tolled. Each individual bell is struck once, from the smallest to the largest, in a slow, steady peal. After that, all of the bells are struck together at the same time. Striking the bells from the smallest to the largest symbolizes the stages of a person’s life from birth to death; the final striking of all the bells together symbolizes the end of this earthly life. This process if referred to as Perebor.
Interment Attending the interment is optional for guests. At graveside, there is a brief prayer ceremony. The officiating priest or bishop usually puts soil on top of the casket formed in the shape of a cross and each person present places one flower on the casket or spreads the soil.
Post Reception It is appropriate to briefly visit the bereaved at home after the funeral. Religious objects that a visitor may see there are icons – two dimensional artistic images of saints; a lighted candle; and burning incense. A Meal of Mercy is often given in the church hall, a restaurant, or the home of the deceased shortly after the burial.
The age-old tradition of feasting the dead has been maintained by Russian populations for well over five centuries. They have a tradition of feasting the dead for three, nine and forty days after one’s death. The soul of the deceased must battle its way out of the body and then spend time in both heaven and hell. While this journey is occurring, the living must remember the dead, helping their souls during this period. Feasting
Mourning The bereaved usually stays home from work for one week and may avoid social gatherings for two months. In some cases, widows may avoid social events for a full year. Mourners usually avoid social gatherings for the first 40 days after the death and may also wear only black clothing during that time period. A memorial service is held on the Sunday closest to the 40th day after the death. A memorial service is then held annually on the anniversary of the death.