The Funeral Service of the Eastern Orthodox Church consists of hymns, prayers, and readings from the Scriptures. The order
of the Service is as follows:
- The Trisagion Service, chanted at the funeral home or in the church on the evening before the funeral service and on the day
of the funeral, at the graveside following the funeral service, and for memorial services.
- Selection of verses from Psalm 119 (LXX 118), in three stanzas: (Part I -verses 1, 20, 28, 36, 53, 63; Part II -verses 73,
83, 94, 102, 112, 126; Part III -verses 132, 141, 149, 161 1 175, 176)
- Blessings (Evlogetaria): "Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your statutes!" (Psalm 119:12).
- Kontakion and Hymns in each of the Eight Tones.
- Scripture Readings: (a) 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and (b) John 5:24-30.
- Small Litany, Prayers, and Dismissal.
- The Kiss of Peace and the anointing of the body.
- The chanting of the Trisagion Service at the cemetery.
: Before the Funeral Service itself, the brief Trisagion or
“Thrice-Holy” Service is served at the place where the deceased
lies. This service derives its name because it begins with the
familiar prayer, “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on
us,” repeated three times. After the initial prayers, four hymns
are chanted asking the Lord to give rest to the deceased among those
who have already been perfected in the faith. A litany follows
and is concluded with a prayer that includes again the petition to the
Lord to grant rest to the deceased and asks for the forgiveness of
sins. Before the service is concluded, the faithful sing, “May your
memory be eternal.”
: The Funeral Service begins with the chanting in three stanzas of verses from Psalm 119 (118 in the Septuagint). In Greek
this is referred to as the Amomos
(blameless) because the first words are, “Blessed are those whose way
is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.” Following the
first stanza, a small litany is said with petitions for the
departed. If more than one priest is officiating, this litany is
said after each stanza.
: Following the chanting of Psalm 119 are the Funeral Praises, the
Evlogetaria. These hymns are chanted in a solemn tone which highlights
there deep theological content. They are called “Evlogetaria”
(meaning hymns of praise) because each one is proceeded by Psalm
119:12, “Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your statutes.” Their
designation as the Funeral Evlogetaria distinguishes them from the
Resurrectional Evlogetaria that are chanted during the Sunday Matins
service. For the Funeral Service for a member of the clergy, two
additional Evlogetaria are included.
Kontakion and Hymns of the Eight Tones
: At the conclusion of the Evlogetaria, the Kontakion of the Funeral Service is chanted:
“With the Saints give rest, O Christ, to the soul of Your servant where there is no pain, nor sorrow, nor suffering, but life
the chanting of this hymn, the priest censes the deceased and the
faithful, as well as the Holy Altar Table and icons. Following
this are chanted the very moving hymns known as the Idiomela.
Each hymn has its own particular melody and are sung in the order of
the eight modes or tones of Byzantine chant. These hymns and their
changing melodic modes express the mixed emotions of grief and
consolation that come from the loss of a loved one and in our
affirmation of our hope in God’s promise of rest for the departed and
: In addition to the prayers and hymnody, the Funeral Service also includes two Scripture lessons, one from the Apostolos (the liturgical book that contains the lections from the Book of Acts and the Epistles) and another from the Evangelion (the liturgical book of the four Gospels arranged in pericopes or lections). The assigned readings for the service are I
Thessalonians 4:13-17 and John 5:24-30. The Apostolos and the Evangelion also list several alternate readings which include from the Apostolos I Corinthians 15:47-57; I Corinthians 15:20-28; Romans 14:6-9; and from the Evangelion
John 5:17-24; John 6:35-39; John 6:40-44; and John 6:48-54. All
of these passages reflect the Church’s belief in the reality of
Christ’s death and Resurrection and of the benefits that we derive from
them, namely, the resurrection of our body on the last day, and the
promise of incorruption and immortality.
Prayers and Dismissal
: Following the readings, the small litany that was said earlier is
repeated, and priest offers a prayer for the repose of the
deceased. At this point a special prayer is added if a hierarch
is officiating and/or the funeral is for a member of the clergy.
The priest, addressing Christ who defeated death, asks the “God of
spirits and of all humankind” to grant rest to the soul of the
deceased, “now asleep in a place of light, a place of renewed life, a
joyous place….” The Dismissal prayer of the Funeral Service once
again introduces the hope of the resurrection as the priest calls upon
the intercessions of the all-holy Theotokos, the holy Apostles, the
holy Fathers, the three Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and of the
holy and righteous Lazarus, the friend of Christ who was raised from
the dead by our Lord. After this prayer the faithful sing, “May
your memory be eternal.”
The Kiss of Peace and Anointing
: Following the dismissal prayer comes the moment of our final farewell
greeting to the deceased. As the people come forward to look upon
the deceased, the choir or chanters sing hymns that invite them to
offer a kiss to the one who has reposed in the faith while they pray
for the Lord to give the person rest. The kiss given to the
deceased is an expression of love for the departed, but it is also an
affirmation that the one who has fallen asleep is worthy of the
fulfillment of God’s promises having lived a life of faith and known
the grace of God.
the people and the family have come and offered their final greeting,
the priest anoints the body in the sign of the Cross with oil and
earth. As the priest anoints with the oil he says: “Sprinkle me
with hyssop and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than
snow” (Psalm 51:7). As the priest anoints the body with earth, he
says: “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world and
all that dwell in it (Psalm 24:1). You are dust and to dust you shall
return” (Genesis 3:19).
At the Cemetery
: Following the Funeral Service, the priest and people proceed to the
cemetery. Here, the priest chants the Trisagion and the body is
committed to the grave to await the return of our Lord and the
resurrection of the dead.
Nikolaos P. Vassiliadis. The Mystery of Death. Second Edition. Translated by Peter A. Chamberas. Athens: Orthodox Brotherhood of Theologians, 1997. pp. 352-377.
Alkiviadis C. Calivas. Essays in Theology and Liturgy. Volume 3. Aspects of Orthodox Worship. Brookline: Holy Cross Press, 2003. p. 157.
Editor: Father Nektarios Morrow [Back to top] [Back to top]