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Greek Orthodox Religion On Death And Dying


People who are from a Greek background, can be very sensitive towards death, dying, and even cancer. Many Greek families may wish to prevent the means of communication of a diagnosis and prognosis from medical professionals to the dying person. Their reasons could be because, they need to " Protect " the dying person, and to prevent further suffering. They also believe that if a prognosis is communicated to the dying person, they may give up, and lose the will to live. The word " Cancer " in most cases, is automatically associated with Death. People in the Greek Orthodox religion prefer to use such phases as " that terrible sickness. "

The news would normally be given to the family, but this has changed over time, and most times, the patient would be given the information, but in some cases the relatives of the patient will ask the doctor not to give the patient bad news, as they may lose the will to live. The family would give the news to relatives and friends of the patient.

The Priest will never utter the words " you are going to die, " and most cases prefer not to give " last rites, " but rather to give communion, in which should not be given too soon. If a patient should happen to call his priest, and request a visit, the priest may say to the patient that he will see them in " 3 days, " rather than on request. The priest will read bible passages, and offer a prayer for the patient.

Family and friends play an extremely important role in the care for a dying person within the Greek religion. The wife of a dying husband needs to be involved on the care of the patient, as this sometimes will fulfill her sense of duty, and obligation. The presence of carers is essential in helping to reassure that the dying person is being loved and nurtured. The family wishes to play a strong role in decisions and care for the elderly.

Our love towards a terminally ill patient is expressed as a desire to deliver him from pain, or as a wish to prolong his life so they can be together. The suffering of our fellowman, and our compassion for him to create an inner conflict of love with our desire for togetherness. In the Greek Orthodox religion, they believe that conflict presents an inner crisis, which provides the opportunity for strengthened trust in God's will. Although it is humanly understandable that we wish to postpone death, the use of medical technology may go beyond spiritual ethics. The Greek Orthodox religion, also believe that the moment of death belongs entirely to God. Our life is in God's hands,, and all incidents are to our own spiritual benefit, and constitutes part of God's plan. Every death, resulting from human decisions and choices is an insult to God, no matter how " good " it may sound. The Greek Orthodox Church condemns as unethical and insulting for the medical professionals, every medical act which does not contribute to the health or prolonging of a life, but, instead, provokes the hastening of the moment of death. We human beings should pray, not to decide about life and death. The Greek Orthodox religion is completely against every aspect of Euthanasia.

When someone from the Greek community, is lying on the death bed, in a village for instance, all the people from that village, including children, would go to the dying person, and ask for forgiveness, and in return he would do the same. The dying person would confess all his sins for the very last time, and receive communion from a priest, to prepare for the unavoidable encounter with Christ.

The role of the Church is extremely important within the Greek Orthodox religion. They dictate certain behaviors of people in bereavement, and the certain procedures that need to be followed. The body is considered by highly sacred, within the Orthodox Church. Practices may include may include clothing of the body in a white sheet, under other attire. A vigil is usually held, at the funeral parlor. When the Church speaks of Death, it is not to frighten the people, but to help them to overcome it.

The bereaved family stay at home, normally, for one week. Widows, may avoid social events fir a full year. Mourners usually avoid social gatherings. for the first forty days, after the death, and usually only wear black clothing for that time period. Greek Orthodox Widows may wear black up to two years.

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A Greek Orthodox funeral usually consists of five stages. There is a wake, than there is the funeral service, after which there is burial, and often a funeral luncheon. There are several Greek Orthodox customs. in which take place in these stages. However, in order to have a Greek Orthodox funeral, the deceased must first be eligible.


Those baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church are eligible for a Church funeral. Although. there are a few exceptions : if the deceased violated one or more of the canon laws. Some of these violations include - suicide or marriage outside of the Orthodox church. If the deceased is cremated after death. he will also be ineligible for an Orthodox funeral.

The Wake

The Wake is a formal process that takes place, normally, the night before the funeral service. It may be held at an Orthodox Church or funeral home, where visiting family and friends may give eulogies. During the Wake, the Priest will person a ten minute Trisagion Service for the family and the deceased. The worlds " Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us, " are repeated three times from the entire congregation.

The Funeral Service

The funeral service is held at the Orthodox Church or funeral home. The service can be scheduled on any day, except for Sundays and Holy Saturday. The ceremony lasts between thirty minutes to one hour. The service usually included readings, prayers, and hymns, and the congregation is expected to sing along. After the prayer, the priest will offer a sermon to give inspirational messages to the family and friends of the deceased, regarding life and death, after which, the priest, may share personal information about the deceased, pay last respects, and sometimes give a farewell kiss, in which is also known as " the kiss of peace and anointing. " After the funeral, each person passes the casket, and places a flower on top of it.

The Burial

At the Grave site, there will be a brief prayer ceremony. The priest usually puts soil on top of the casket, normally, formed in the shape of a cross, and each person present, places a flower on the casket or spreads the soil. The flowers usually come from those sent to the Church for the funeral, and than conveyed to the grave site with the casket. The body of the deceased, is normally placed facing an eastern direction, in which represents Christ's resurrection. The priest will than seal the casket with oil and sand, before lowering the casket in the ground.

The Funeral Luncheon

A custom, of a Greek Orthodox funeral, is to have a luncheon. Fish is normally served as the main dish, because fish is symbol of Christ. It is also served because fish is an acceptable meal during fasting periods, in the event that the funeral takes place on good Friday, or another fasting period. Eulogies may also be given at this time, and the luncheon is the most popular stage in which eulogies are given.

The Memorial Service

A memorial service is held normally he first Sunday after the funeral, as an expression to God, and also as a remembrance for the deceased person. The service is normally done multiple times, over the course of several months. A memorial service is held, at the time of death, the third day, the ninth day, the fortieth day, at three, six, and nine months. After which a memorial service is held annually, at the anniversary of the death.

With death comes the separation of the soul from the body. The body will return to Earth, from which it was taken. The time will come, when it will be resurrected, at the time of the last judgement. Then it will be united with the soul to be judged, along with the body. In the meantime, the soul in which was separated, through death, from the body, lives in what we call " A middle state. " It undergoes the particular judgement. This means, that immediately after death the soul is judged individually.

After the particular judgement, at the second coming of Christ, , having a destiny of paradise or hell. At the final judgement, everyone will be judged, according to their faith. Christ will separate the just from the sinners. The sinners will be thrown away into eternal punishment, but the righteous, will be put into eternal life, and have an afterlife, of eternal happiness. There will be absolutely no changes after the final judgement. In order for the final judgement to happen, two things must occur first, the resurrection of the dead, by which the soul will be reunited with the body, and the second coming of Christ.

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