The Greek Orthodox Church believes that death separates the soul from the body and with Christ’s coming, there will be final judgment and the soul will spend eternity either in Heaven or Hell.
Funerals are held about two to three days after the death, and the service itself can be particularly long-winded, lasting from thirty to sixty minutes. As the priest reads from selected texts, the procession pay their respects to the deceased who will be lying in an open casket. Viewing the body is optional, but expected. The hardcore Orthodox will bow before the casket and kiss an icon or cross which will be placed on the chest of the deceased.
At the graveside, the priest will say a brief prayer and then sprinkle soil on top of the casket, forming the shape of a cross. Each person will then come forward and place a flower or sprinkle more soil onto the casket.
A traditional Greek Orthodox greeting to the bereaved family is “Αἰωνία ἡ μνήμη”, “Aionia I mnimi” – which means “Memory Eternal”.
It is customary for the close males of the deceased to grow their beard and to refrain from cutting their hair during the period of mourning.
After the burial, a “meal of mercy” is provided by members of the deceased family. Other receptions take place in the church hall or at a restaurant, depending on the number of people.
Most mourners will wear black for forty days after the funeral and widows may wear black for up to two years, some for the rest of their lives.
A memorial service is held on the day closest to the fortieth day after the death, although some people continue to hold gatherings every few months and then annually on the anniversary of the death.
Funerals can require a lot of organisation which of course is very difficult when one is grieving for a loved one. The following list of useful contacts may help to lessen the burden:
- Greek Care
- The Funeral Service of the Orthodox Church
- A Good Goodbye
- Greek Funeral Services Melbourne
- Repatriation to Greece