Muksuris: Revisiting the Orthodox Funeral Service
Revisiting the Orthodox Funeral Service: Resurrecting a Positive Thematology in the Rite for the Dead1
Stelyios S. Muksuris, Ph.D. Professor of Liturgy, Byzantine Catholic Seminary
Introduction Within the corpus of liturgical services in the Eastern Church, no one rite would be expected to draw as thoroughly and vividly the stark contrast between death and resurrection as the funeral. This thematology of opposites, however, and their related sub-themes (e.g. despair and hope, darkness and life, finality and perpetuity), in the Byzantine funeral rite, always appear so far polarized to the point that the contrasting elements never seem to engage with each other. Christ's manhandling of death at Golgotha and His instantaneous inauguration of the life of the Kingdom, sealed by His three-day Resurrection, the sine qua non of the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 15:14), remains the ἐφάπαξ, trans-historical event from which the Church derives her eschatological orientation. But in the funeral rite, as one carefully probes the rubrical and hymnological flow, quite noticeable is a disheartening and unsettling disconnect between the positive theme of eternal life and the negative notion of the crude finality of bodily death. The latter is not expressed as the portal for the former; it is stripped of any positive value and relegated to a completely undesirable event. Both themes are juxtaposed clumsily in the rite --the objects of two separate, disjointed reflections, hardly contributing to an organic synthesis. With regard to the mixed thematological content, Elena Velkovska observes that "it should be noted that the ideas developed by Byzantine funeral hymnography provoke in the relatives mourning the deceased an effect exactly opposite to that consolation of hearts that the ancient Inclination Prayer aimed to produce." 2 This prayer, first appearing in the oldest extant Byzantine euchologion from the eighth century, the Italo-Greek Barberini Codex gr. 336, situates the act of consolation in Christ not merely as an external act of divine philanthropy, removed from the Christological mystery; the consolation is intimately tied to the Resurrection because the resurrected Christ Himself is the consolation! The presidential prayers of the funeral rite, of which the consolatory Prayer for the Bowing of the Heads is but a representative example, verifiably abound in biblical content 3 and are among the oldest remnants of the funeral service. 4 More importantly, however, they retain a
1 This paper was delivered at the International Conference on Liturgical Renewal, held at Hellenic College and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, Brookline, MA, from March 15-16, 2013. Copyright © 2013 by V. Rev. Dr. Stelyios S. Muksuris. All rights reserved. The author may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 2 E. Velkovska, "Funeral Rites according to the Byzantine Liturgical Sources", in Dumbarton Oaks Papers 55 (2001) 43. The Inclination Prayer affirms Christ's power to bestow comfort on the mourners following a person's death precisely because He is simultaneously the resurrection and the life (Jn 11.25) of the dead. For the English translation of the prayer that appears in the 10th-11th century codex Grottaferrata Γ.β. Χ (folio 78r-78v), see Velkovska, p. 44, and the "Appendix", p. 47 for the original. For the 8th century Byzantine recension, see also Parenti and Velkovska, eds. L'euchologio Barberini gr. 336 (Rome, 2000), p. 235 (Prayer 265). 3 Velkovska, "Funeral Rites according to the Byzantine Liturgical Sources", p. 43. 4 E. Velkovska, "Funeral Rites in the East", in Handbook for Liturgical Studies. Volume 4: Sacraments and Sacramentals. Ed. Anscar J. Chupungco (Collegeville, MN, 2000), p. 353. See also J.L. Zecher, "Death's Spiraling Narrative: On 'Reading' the Orthodox Funeral", in Studia Liturgica 41 (2011) 274; and Alexander Schmemann, "Four Previously Unpublished Lectures on 'The Orthodox Liturgy of Death'", transcribed by Robert Alan Hutcheon in From Lamentation to Alleluia: An Interpretation of the Theology of the Present-Day Byzantine-Rite Funeral Page 1
readings. "The Development of the Christian Funeral"."6 Paul Fedwick considers the Eastern funeral service a "juxtaposition of sometimes conflicting views". 9 Schmemann's mantra of a sensible consistency between the trinity of lex orandi.2 (1976) 152. NY. pp. p. Muksuris: Revisiting the Orthodox Funeral Service
positive thematology centering on the hope and victory realized in the resurrected Lord.. 11. which is offered twice or thrice during the funeral vigil.10 Galadza also notes the wisdom among American Eastern Catholics for the past forty years to celebrate a funeral Eucharist for the obvious thematic content. lex credendi. and eulogies. http://www. "Death and Dying in Byzantine Liturgical Traditions". Schmemann. 5 Velkovska. Galadza. 1974). p.9 Other scholars have chimed in with similar concerns about the predominantly selfdefeating character of the Eastern funeral rite. : "A decadent liturgy supported by a decadent theology and leading to a decadent piety: such is the sad situation in which we find ourselves today and which must be corrected if we love the Church and want her to become again the power which transforms the life of man. regarding matter and the body as things below man's dignity or unimportant. hymnography.12 Hence. diss. 310-60. 10 P. "theologically incoherent and pastorally deformed. MA. "whose outlook is gloomy and even terrifying. Vladimir's Seminary 2006 Summer Liturgical Institute. esp. placed into the ground from which the souls have Page 2
."8 For Schmemann. 7 P. failing to transform the life of man. University of Ottawa. "Funeral Rites in the East". pp. See also Alkiviadis Calivas. equally problematic. 274. and psalmody.5 whose content is strikingly contradictory to the Christian Gospel."7 Alexander Schmemann leveled perhaps the most severe critique of the rite's fateful development by arguing that the Orthodox funeral service is comprised of two strata: the earlier material found in the euchological prayers. who says cemeteries. p. as well as the renewal of cathedral elements to encourage and facilitate popular participation. is the "liturgical fundamentalism (of the Eastern Orthodox) inimical to any modifications of the textus receptus. one notes the potential for a thematic
Service Analyzed Through Its Practical Relationship top Bereaved Persons (Ph. p. as Velkovska notes. as the resting places of dead bodies. 8 Zecher.S." 12 P. 2003).com/product_infophp?products_id=3111. Essays in Theology and Liturgy. 353. p. is sadly overshadowed by the stark pessimism of the funereal hymns. 125-37. Fedwick. Volume 3: Aspects of Orthodox Worship (Brookline. and the later material layered over the earlier. and reflects not hope but despair in the face of death. is a religion of the spirit. in Studia Liturgica 33 (2003) 62-74. 62. and lex vivendi has been expressed elsewhere in a very bold manner. 6 Zecher. this lamentational hymnody stands completely at odds with the paschal theme and represents both a theological and pastoral anomaly that can only be detrimental to both the local and global church. 2003). at odds with the ancient Christian message that regarded bodily resurrection and beatitude as equally important. the intended central focus that. like so many other religions. 274. note 1. lecture at St." A. although he deplores the minimalism of appending to the liturgy only the final kiss and the litē. 11 Galadza. "Lost and Displaced Elements of the Byzantine Funeral Rites: Towards a Pastoral Re-appropriation". give the impression that Christianity. Peter Galadza has rightly denounced the absence of a sound resurrectional focus as well as the inclusion of prayers for the consolation of the bereaved.D. 11 Paul Meyendorff has ascertained in the Byzantine funeral rites a preoccupation with the soul's status in the process of salvation. pp. The other extreme. or "extended trisagion". Of Water and the Spirit (Crestwood.svspress. indicating that "all these views are brought together without any desire of reconciliation. which profess the hope and joy in the Resurrection. and he has likewise advocated for the restoration of a greater diversity in funereal readings. 323-42.J. in Eastern Churches Review 8. Meyendorff's observation of this Platonic tendency is likewise resonated by Theodor Filthaut. Meyendorff.
To his credit. The narrative remedy only seems to justify what appears to have been a haphazard aggregation of disparate elements or. On another occasion. Reforming the Rites of Death. ed. let us hear the minority's voice. They are. 32 (New York. VT. Taft has made the insightful observation that Eastern monks were notorious for not only composing but aggregating hymnographical compositions into services in spite of the thematic or rubrical disparity this would cause. pp. What key factors. we must note that the funeral has no single perspective from which it looks at death. Concilium: Theology in the Age of Renewal. . In my opinion. 15. 13 Zecher. Taft. Zecher's invitation to view the funeral service and its contents as an organic whole is a noble attempt to bring about a reconciliation of an otherwise thematically convoluted and disjointed rite. He notes that "our cemeteries reveal the gap between the gospel message and the religious outlook of many Christians today. Graveyards. In all fairness though. but it also looks backward toward creation and forward to the eschaton. in his Liturgy in Byzantium and Beyond (Burlington. several questions nevertheless come to mind with regard to this conspicuous and contradictory thematology.F. Monks typically preferred to add content they considered God-inspired rather than to subtract it and thus ignored the inevitable confusion this would later cause Page 3
. p. whose minds can grasp Zecher's suggested spiraling narrative of death more comprehensively than the typical layman. but this fact only highlights those with an ascribed authorship. 1968). where ritual elements dealing mainly with the body's fallen and ignoble nature in death conflict with the more positive material that exalts the unitive resurrection of both soul and body. instead. . 69) See T. narratological. more accurately. Among those proponents who do not visualize a necessary conflict in the funeral's thematology is Jonathan Zecher. are not the place for unrestrained merriment. focusing on the oftentimes discomfiting and grim realism surrounding death. See R.S. in the form of what he terms a spiraling eschatological narrative. pp. who while acknowledging objectively the presence of conflicting notions. To return briefly to the agonistic hymns concerning the event of death. the Schmemannian understanding of a later. These themes are deliberately unsystematic. it locates resurrection within a rich and complex (and consistently biblical) eschatological narrative. . Robert Taft has indicated that Theodore the Studite's invitation to Palestinian monks to supply the thriving Constantinopolitan monastery with bodies and hymnographical material against heretics eventually contributed also to the development of the funeral rite. . 67-74. 280. prompted this uncomfortable coexistence and what warrants that it necessarily remains this way ad aeternam? If Sabaite or Studite hymnology has supplied a good portion of the content of the funeral service14 since. and idiomela) is anonymous. Sabas Monastery in Palestine. Instead. Filthaut. . it was "shaped to correspond with
departed. He argues that
funerary theology is not removed from its resurrectional fundament. See Zecher. his position seems more to justify a funeral service requiring a manner of theological contemplation more appropriate for monks than for the typical lay worshipper. 290-91. probably monastic content immersed in a macabre realism and imposed on an earlier stratum of positive hope in a holistic resurrection. troparia. "In the Bridegroom's Absence: The Paschal Triduum in the Byzantine Church". . But shouldn't we find there some measure of the joy that Christ bequeathed to his disciples (Jn. "Proclaiming the Resurrection in Our Cemeteries".11)?" (p. however. historical and otherwise. of course. 72. Muksuris: Revisiting the Orthodox Funeral Service
dichotomy here. in Johannes Wagner. according to Karen Westerfield Tucker. one gets the impression that Zecher is making excuses for a situation that is well beyond correction. It dwells in the present moment. vol. Regardless of one's stance. In addition. 14 Zecher explains that much of the funerary hymnody (canons. believes they can be somehow reconciled if the funeral rite is studied and read as a whole. p. theologically centering each on Christ's death. such as the hymnographical work of John of Damascus and the funereal canon attributed to Theophanes Graptos of St. 1995).
making no distinction between different kinds of saints those canonized by the Church and those Christians of orthodox piety who have reposed in the Faith. we shall extract and affirm a biblical thematology that is at once hopeful. and fortieth days following death. 125. The Byzantine anaphora of Chrysostom makes a commemoration of the dead. As he has said time and time again. in P. pp." 17 And this inalienable truth testifies to the fact that "Tradition is the church's self-consciousness now of that which has been handed on to it not as an inert treasure. "Funeral Rites according to the Byzantine Liturgical Sources". mentions the singing of psalms at the death of a Christian. p. is attained. concepts more familiar to Byzantine or Palestinian monks and reflective in fact of a late medieval rural society?16 Robert Taft has taught us that indeed. and advocating for a greater variety in the lectionary and hymnographical material. Taft. The Apostolic Constitutions. for whom the Eucharist is offered. in Antiphon 5:1 (2000) 10-22. such as distributing presidential prayers throughout the service. 204.15 why has the Church not yet edited the official texts to secure a more balanced thematology. Bradshaw and L. "Funeral Rites in the East". ministering as much to the living as to the dead. How does one go about this seemingly daunting task? In this paper. at least for parish usage? Why does each funeral service celebrated by Eastern churches in the twenty-first century still seem locked in a different epoch (which for some inexplicable reason the Church has romanticized). p. eds. both theologically and pastorally. IN. restoring the pre-baptismal anointing for the dead. but as a dynamic principle of life" 18. 21. the bottom line is that in its current state.B. a Syrian church order contemporary with Chrysostom's anaphora. there is no such thing as an ideal age for liturgy and that history does not necessarily provide us with models for imitation. 15 K.A. the Church united in prayer. and equally realistic. the funeral service of the Orthodox Church is gravely wanting. and requires a serious thematic overhaul.S. We will then offer specific suggestions to create a more thematologically balanced and coherent rite. Page 4
. one where the eschatological vision of "God in the midst of gods". The Egyptian
during the rite's celebration in different contexts. I propose to delve into the earliest Byzantine euchological sources (the Barberini and Grottaferrata codices) and examine closely the presidential prayers used in the funerals of various categories of individuals. probably under monastic influence" in the eighth century. A Historical Survey of the Major Sources Velkovska has correctly indicated that the original setting of the official ecclesiastical prayers for the dead are to be found in the intercessions of the Eucharistic Prayer. the so-called "earlier material".F. Westerfield Tucker. Life Cycles in Jewish and Christian Worship (Notre Dame. 20 Velkovska. "Christian Rituals Surrounding Death". 17 R. "The past is always instructive but never normative. The ultimate hope is to create a service that is theologically appropriate and pastorally appealing. 18 Ibid. In these prayers. the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church working with us in "creative continuity" with the past. p. not to mention a eucharistic celebration at the cemetery. joyful. The same source highlights the significance of memorial commemorations on the third. 1996). expressing a whirlwind of disproportionate ideas that derive from unexamined and unaltered liturgical texts.F. ninth. 16 Velkovska. Muksuris: Revisiting the Orthodox Funeral Service
the more elaborate structure used for the regular daily services of the Church. 19 Calivas. 20 following the consecratory epiklesis. 19 So. 352-53. Hoffman. "'Eastern Presuppositions' and Western Liturgical Renewal".
1995). A Literary. ed. 25 V. it comprises a liturgical unit with the first prayer. known as the Euchologion of Serapion of Thmuis."24 This claim. three bear the title εὐχὴ (ἄλλη) ἐπὶ τελευτήσαντος ("(another) prayer for one who has expired"). 264-270. the second inclination prayer has as its focus the comforting of the mourners. 336. bears powerful witness to a positive thematology in the earliest Byzantine funeral rite. also dating from the fourth century. what we have here is a complete liturgical structure (a litany followed by a collect prayer and a prayer of inclination. 336 and listed in numerical order (nos. First. Velkovska is convinced that "this structure represents beyond doubt the original nucleus of the Byzantine funeral rite. if in fact true. beseeching Christ to provide comfort to the survivors and allay their emotional pain. pp. 23 the dismissal prayer is conventionally followed by an inclination prayer. and the final one εὐχὴ εἰς κοιμηθέντα μοναχόν ("a prayer for a monk who has fallen asleep"). 68-69. as the same prayer and its predecessor indicate. offers no indication of the distribution of the prayers in the rite. and is very closely connected with it. The first very ancient oration in the Barberini codex. This inclination prayer is of particular interest to us for two reasons. however. The Prayers of Sarapion of Thmuis. So. pp. has attached to it an inclination prayer.E. Page 5
. 23. 23 Ibid. one entitled εὐχὴ ἐπιτάφιος εἰς ἐπίσκοπον ("a burial prayer for a bishop"). the former asking for God's help and mercy during the day or night. there appears to be an erroneous duplication of the last two numbers. L'Euchologio Barberini gr. The first prayer. Among the seven presidential prayers. 158. give us the earliest extant Christian prayers for the dead in Greek. Isaac. Orientalia Christiana Analekta (OCA) 249 (Rome. et al. 94-95. "Funeral Rites according to the Byzantine Liturgical Sources". p. pp. "O God of spirits and all flesh". and Jacob. or a prayer for the bowing of the heads. the content of the inclination prayer refers to the consolation of the bereaved attending the funeral. In the Byzantine cathedral Liturgy of the Hours. eds. so there is immediately a pastoral concern for the living. prayers 63 and 64 (the ancient enumeration includes both under 42). which is as concerned for the living as for the dead and which identifies the resurrected Christ as the one who fulfills the needs of both. as Velkovska confirms. While the first prayer. the original numbering in the manuscript has 224-28). Second. 227 and 228. almost identical to the priestly prayer offered in the modern Orthodox funeral. the latter invoking a blessing on those present who have bowed their heads.22 This enumeration. p. 24 Velkovska."21 The oldest evidence of funeral rites from Byzantium is a collection of prayers found in the famous euchologion known as the Codex Barberini gr. I funerali di un sacerdote nel rito bizantino secondo gli eucologi manoscritti di lingua greca (Jerusalem. is found in the
21 M. appears likewise in the Armenian and Coptic euchologia 25 and. And this legitimate petition is accomplishable because. Liturgical and Theological Analysis" . See. is essentially a collect that follows the diaconal litany for the repose of the dead.S. for example. Bruni. He who possesses power and authority over all flesh and can supply the dead with rest "in the bosom of Abraham" can also minister to the living. 1972). which contain the classical theme of rest "in the bosom of Abraham. Muksuris: Revisiting the Orthodox Funeral Service
sacramentary. the liturgical unit in cathedral vespers. "Ὁ Θεὸς τῶν πνευμάτων". witnessed also by Barberini. 22 See Parenti and Velkovska. In the ancient numbering. both prayers sealed by a trinitarian doxology).. 235-38. Johnson. one with the heading εὐχὴ ἄλλη ἐπιτάφιος καθολική ("another universal burial prayer").
See also B. the encouragement of those in sorrow and the comfort of those who mourn". and "O Master God of spirits and all flesh. The matins service is identical to the ones celebrated in monasteries on the Saturdays of Lent and ordinary. See also J. Κείμενα Λειτουργικῆς (Thessalonike. p. non-festal Saturdays. "O Lord. 226 and Grottaferrata Γ. The third prayer derives from the Italo-Greek schematologion. Petersburg gr. 31 Velkovska identifies three unique structures to the rite: (1) monastic (Studite) matins. consecration. 2. p. in La maladie et la mort du chrétien dans la liturgie (Rome. the encouragement of those in sorrow and the comfort of those who mourn. Muksuris: Revisiting the Orthodox Funeral Service
Nessana Papyrus. Excavations at Nessana vol. Phountoules.Χ. and 4 in Grottaferrata corresponding to prayers 1. the manuscript known as Grottaferrata Γ.troparion and Exaposteilarion .β. Parenti. 3 (Princeton. The litany and the hymnographical canon --.change in accordance with the social and ecclesiastical rank of the deceased. which quite probably may have included prayers used in the eighth century not listed in Barberini. The structure is as follows: "Blessed is the Kingdom" .. in between the eighth and tenth century. with regard to the presidential prayers for various categories of the dead.the former proper to the funeral service.30 This codex represents the most ancient funeral rite in the Byzantine tradition and it is verifiably in the form of a monastic orthros. four prayers are said.".litany and prayer . These themes include the concepts of "light. p. 26. and particularly of repose in the 'bosom of Abraham. all we have are assortments of funeral prayers but no extant funeral rites. 2.β. IV. and these include prayers for different categories of the dead. 6th. 24. refreshment. peace. "La celebrazione delle Ore del Venerdì Santo nell'eucologio Γ.32 (2) a cathedral-stational liturgy. "Les plus anciennes formules de prière pour les morts". p.lauds (Pss 148150) with respective hymnography. 33 "O God of spirits and all flesh. "Funeral Rites according to the Byzantine Liturgical Sources". 24. 83-99. This changes with the Byzantine euchologion composed in southern Italy but discovered near Rome and dated between the tenth and eleventh century. 31.S.canon and liturgical unit (litany and prayer) after 3rd. p. what is also included in them is the litany-presidential prayer-inclination prayer structure. Botte. 31 I. Lord. 27 These include the tenth-century St. and 5 in Barberini.M. 28 Ibid. NJ. In all the available sources the two prayers. rest. Lord. 29 Ibid. pp.D. it is difficult not to notice that common themes permeate each prayer and represent a very archaic tradition. 33
26 Velkovska. Velkovska. 29. 27 More importantly. These themes are reflected in Luke 16:22-24 and Hebrews 4:10-11. 1958). 37 (the oldest Byzantine euchologion in Slavonic) and Sinai gr. and 9th odes .)". Other euchologies in which this ancient prayer structure is found are Sinai glag.". pp.Psalm 118 (17th Kathisma of the Psalter) . 26 Several other local Italo-Greek and Palestinian manuscripts between the tenth and twelfth centuries contain euchologia comparable to Barberini. and (3) the funeral rites proper..'"29 However. although the prayers themselves contain the known incipits. which are listed in their entirety. 24-26. the latter comprising the core of matins --. with prayers 1.. Χ di Grottaferrata (X-XI sec. 959 from the eleventh century and Sinai gr. See ibid. which dates to about 600 A. is common to all of these medieval sources and thus must represent a common tradition. "Funeral Rites according to the Byzantine Liturgical Sources".. in Boll Grot 44 (1990) 81-125. 310. In the morning service.. 1979). 30 S.J.28 In the Byzantine euchological tradition of Constantinople and its environs. a Byzantine monastic liturgical manual containing rits for monastic vesting.".Hexapsalmos (or Ps 90 only if the deceased is a monk) . and the Page 6
. 32 Velkovska. p.C.. 1975). the collect "O God of spirits and all flesh" and the inclination "O Lord. Kraemer. 961 (11th-12th century)."Alleluia" with troparia .β.
Trans. 35 Vitaliano Bruni traces the three antiphons to a hagiopolitical cathedral vigil (Bruni. the celebrant pours oil three times over the body. three antiphons are constructed around a psalm (Psalms 22. omissions. NIV).S. 1975). (South Canaan. M. whose uncomfortable juxtaposition in the rite is at once theologically and pastorally problematic. 83) with hymnography. and their respective liturgical units throughout the matins service. A final prayer of consolation for the living is offered. and a theotokion ("My every hope") concludes the hymnody. "Les prières presbytérales de la 'Pannychis' de l'ancien Euchologe byzantin et la 'Panikhida' des défunts II". the troparion "Ὁρῶντές με ἄφωνον" ("Beholding me voiceless") is followed by the farewell kiss and accompanied by the hymn "Δεῦτε τελευτα ῖον ἀσπασμόν" ("Let us give the final farewell kiss"). the usual procession to the cemetery via particular churches or important sites). in Orientalia Christiana Analekta 41 (1975) 314-43. 36 "Open for me the gates of the righteous. deriving from this common Studite synthesis. 34 Ibid. The celebrant then blesses the oil for anointing with the same formula used in the prebaptismal anointing. See. with the paschal symbolism of Romans 6:3-5 quite apparent. the slab is placed over the tomb and blessed. 1998-1999). The Funeral Service Book According to the Use of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America.
funerary rites for a monk. 36-38. Scholars have offered different hypotheses for the origins of this section of the funeral rite. I will enter and give thanks to the Lord" (Ps 117:19 LXX. a litany and a prayer. NJ.34 With regard to the stational celebration (in all likelihood. Compiled by John G. Psalm 117:19 and Psalm 131:1436 are sung as verses. After this. Thus. with notes by St. Trans. which has rendered the synthesis known as the Studite office.37 What is key though is the adaptation of cathedral prayer and hymnody (immersed in archaic biblical and christological themes) onto a predominantly monastic orthros. as Velkovska observes. and the people are dismissed. 2001). Page 7
. that assesses the stark reality of death in a contemplative and depressing manner. a phenomenon not all that different from the distribution of cathedral prayers in monastic vespers and matins. Corinthians). and an epistle reading (Romans. p. "The history of the funeral rite is no different from the general history of the Byzantine Liturgy of the Hours. PA. Muksuris: Revisiting the Orthodox Funeral Service
Essentially. 1989). Inter-Eparchial Liturgical Commission (Pittsburgh. The Office of Christian Burial according to the Byzantine Rite . we are confronted with essentially two divergent ways of seeing death. p. p. truncations) that are simply two numerous to get into here and are beyond the immediate scope of this paper. singing "Alleluia" as during the baptismal rite before the neophyte is immersed into the font. 37 Μικρὸν Εὐχολόγιον ἤ Ἁγιασματάριον = The Priest's Service Book. Arranz. Evagoras Constantinides (Merrillville. Vol. As the body is laid in the tomb. Velkovska. Tikhon's Seminary. The modern celebration of the funeral service for parish usage within various Eastern jurisdictions. 33. Trans. NIV). has several variations (additions. 32 and pp. 3. Winfrey (Englewood. the compiler has interspersed the prayers for the dead. Corinthians. Miguel Arranz argues that it possibly derives from a pannychis or partial post-vesperal vigil. In this synthesis of two liturgical currents to form a modified but complex funereal Liturgy of the Hours. IN. PA. as they appear in the euchologies. 23. here I will sit enthroned for I have desired it" (Ps 131:14 LXX.35 In the final graveside rites. The Great Book of Needs: Expanded and Supplemented. more hymnography. "This is my resting place for ever and ever. 120). to which has also been added a hymnographical repertory from the same monastic tradition.
336 Prayers38 The first two prayers of Barberini (nos. From a textual viewpoint. which implies a compassion and co-suffering that stems from God's most inward being. precisely because God possesses eternal life by nature but also because as man He experienced the sting of bodily death in Christ. 264 and 265) make up the presidential prayerinclination prayer unit discussed earlier. 40 Zecher. offering food and drink to the dead to refresh them. The inclination prayer continues the positive thematology begun by the prayer for the dead by shifting the focus now to the living. The inevitability of man sinning is acknowledged next. whose existence does not come to an end but simply transitions to another mode..S. that have been "chased away. p. this position is justified by virtue of a doxological ending that must conclude (Barberini omits the trinitarian ekphōnēsis) with a glorification of all through Persons ("Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit") rather than the textus receptus. 44. 41 Cf."41 Connected to rest is the request for forgiveness. Muksuris: Revisiting the Orthodox Funeral Service
Extracting the Positive Thematology from the Barberini gr. The prayer specifically petitions God to "comfort those seized by pain in mourning for the one who has fallen asleep" and to "heal the pain of sorrow that lies in their hearts.). Isaiah 35:10. He also participates in these very provisions by sharing the experience with them. The assurance that God's power can bestow life on those who have fallen asleep verifies that He can likewise minister to the needs of mourners in need of consolation. not to Christ. 39 Velkovska.39 By virtue of such authority over the devil and death for the purpose of sharing abundant life. p. The English translations from the original Greek. but rather "those who have fallen asleep". And so the dead are not called dead by the Church. the
38 The prayers may be found in Parenti and Velkovska. The prayer establishes the mastery of God over the living and the dead. in which Zion itself will be evacuated of every negative force and the saved will be characterized by an inimitable elation enough to intimidate and put to flight every form of sorrow and sighing common to the fallen world. O Christ our God . n.. the original prayer is directed to the Trinity. of refreshment ( refrigerium40) and proximity to the divine. healing. God's life is shared with the dead. awaiting in their new mode of existence to be awakened in the presence of God. "For You are the resurrection . So. 20. the prayer utilizes the untranslatable noun εὐσπλαγνία. This rest is given in a "place". which reads. Page 8
. Christians were strongly discouraged from taking part in such festivities and were rather urged to celebrate the Eucharist in their memory. are my own. which implies a hopeless and macabre termination. Thus." To fully capture the intensity and magnitude of God's compassion. as evident in the received text used today. wherever provided.. and direction. which He overcame. " together with Your eternal Father and Your allholy and good and life-creating Spirit . they are treated like enemies of redeemed man. or better "condition". but God's flawless righteousness and promise that He is "the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25) for those who believe is given absolute precedence above and beyond man's corrupted state.. where God's presence outrightly forbids pain or sorrow or sighing. With regard to the living's concern for their loved one who has passed. "Funeral Rites according to the Byzantine Liturgical Sources". whose meaning in the Greek literally means "to make room for (in God's heart)". the Trinity bestows rest to the wearied souls exhausted and violated by sin and its consequences. The refrigerium was a Roman feast held by the family over the deceased's tomb on the ninth day after death and on subsequent anniversaries. like wild beasts. Interestingly. God not only makes provisions for the living and the dead. pp. 235-38... drawing the connection that the living and the dead together participated in the new life of the resurrected Lord. Such human sentiments are incompatible in the world permeated by God and actually. uncreated light. 279. implying not simply a mechanical erasure of transgressions but more so a welcoming and acceptance by God to share in the divine life.
for there is truly no death for Your servants but the transition of the soul" (". It reads: ". welcoming the first and last with the same intensity of purpose. which seeks the healing of the faithful like the sacraments of unction and confession. "creator. 1985). and judge of the living and dead. "enlightening the blurriness of their longing by Your intelligible light. So in the funeral liturgy.V. calling God "the help of those who mourn" and asking Him to become their consolation. the prayer of the Church is not fragmented or onesided. Hope and joy in their own resurrection can be secured by fulfilling a life of faithful union to God in this life. This didactic articulation is intended for the living and provides the proper context and positive attitude for understanding what has happened in death. we note the concern as much for the living as for the dead.42 In this regard. Thomas.. and sighing are not simply absent but fled away as if threatened. 44. as it were. Then it makes a stunning theological statement by giving a definition for physical death in the Orthodox understanding. and that the living require (and so request) provisions for their own transition to eternal life. "Funeral Rites according to the Byzantine Liturgical Sources". sorrow. The same prayer then transitions by making a request for the consolation of the living." In this sense. Prayer 268 ("another universal burial prayer"). Prayer 267. It mentions how in the presence of God. as well as to lead man back to the earth from which he was made but also to call him forward to life "διὰ δ ὲ τὴν σ ὴν φιλανθρωπίαν" ("for Your love of man"). shares striking similarities with the more well-known no. savior. offering both mutual support and succor. . God's righteous judgment of condemnation and His prerogative of casting down is tempered by His compassion to "make things right". possessing the same descriptive lemma as the previous prayer. no." Once again. triumphans and militans. Several other positive themes run through the corpus of the remaining Barberini funeral prayers. pain. in prayerful worship and dialogue with God and with one another.S. p." Then a general request is made for everyone attending the
42 Velkovska. that death is not a termination in the linear sense but the continuation of one's existence in a different mode or phase.. ἀλλἀ ψυχῆς μετάστασις"). . the lengthiest of the corpus. Rites du mort: Pour la paix des vivants (Paris. and adds the "land of the righteous" (cf." See also L. Page 9
. This divine philanthropia is the driving force behind God's creative and salvific activity." He possesses full authority to cast souls down to Hades and raise them upward. to give His most prized creation rest together "with all the saints who have pleased [Him] throughout the ages. Prayer 266 ("(another) prayer for one who has expired") identifies God as the god who saves ("ὁ θεὸς τοῦ σώζειν"). 264. as in the Eucharist. "In this context one can grasp the modern understanding of liturgical theology. namely. identifies God as "ἀγαθός καὶ φιλάνθρωπος" and asks the Lord to not only give rest to the departed but also that He preserve the living with "a Christian and sinless end. which sees in the funeral more a celebration of life for the benefit of the living than a celebration for the departed. and this becomes a major concern for the survivors as they observe the transition of their loved one into eternal life. ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν τοῖς δούλοις σου θάνατος ὡς ἀληθῶς. the entire Church is present before the divine β ῆμα . 266 with its reference to cohabitation with the saints). It rehashes the positive theme of rest in a place of light and refreshment. God shows His impartial love to all of humanity. it is holistic and draws into a cohesive unity the whole Church. Muksuris: Revisiting the Orthodox Funeral Service
theme of rest in Abraham's bosom is repeated. Velkovska argues that in this inclination prayer may be found the rationale behind why Theodore the Studite included the funeral service among the Church's sacraments for the living. I will return to this theme later in the paper.
connects this theme with the apocalyptic vision of standing by the divine throne (Revelation 4:4). we perceive that the concern of the Church is as much directed toward the living as it is toward the dead. who has the power to "cast down to Hades and lift up". First. the reward in Your mansions for all his toils in this world. The same prayer also asks Christ to "become the comfort of your sheep" who have lost their earthly shepherd. the simple petition for eternal rest is conjoined to a petition that seeks for the living provisions to conclude their lives in a Christian and blameless manner. and who by "Your wisdom created man from the earth and again returns him to the earth. together with the saints and angelic powers. that the Lord will "preserve those who have come to honor the remains (of the deceased) and show mercy upon our transgressions. From the content of the prayer." The biblical imagery of the Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). in one prayerful expression of solidarity. and this is evident in the binary prayer unit that couples the prayer of repose for the dead (no. highly eschatological in content. we can identify three dominant but related features. placing this acknowledgment in the mouths of both the living and the dead and allowing the entire membership of the Church. 264) with the prayer of consolation for the living (no. in the glory of Your elect. Muksuris: Revisiting the Orthodox Funeral Service
funeral (clergy and laypersons). Prayer 270 follows the motifs of no. Secondly. so that he may receive abundantly. 265)." The loftiness of the martyr's crown is sought after by virtue of the monk's daily dying to Christ and to his own will. these two themes often complement each other in the same prayer. it would appear that the intention is to perpetuate the bishop's place by God's celestial throne in the afterlife but without the pastoral demands ("ἀντὶ τοῦ ποιμενικοῦ κόπου"). and in no. the doxological ekphonesis calls God "the remission of our faults". In these prayers. Prayers 269 ("a burial prayer for a bishop") and 270 ("prayer for a monk who has fallen asleep") are case specific and mention characteristic themes peculiar to the individuals as they lived their lives and callings on earth. identifying God as "He alone who possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light". 267 (the shortest of the corpus). The prayer petitions God to give the bishop "a pious reward" and to "welcome him as a lamp-bearer in Your heavenly bridal chamber". to seek forgiveness and fellowship with God and each other. Such inclusive language suggests a complete eschatological vision of the Church whereby present before the enthroned Godhead is the redeemed cosmos. 266. In addition. in Your name. and added to this is the request for the bestowal of a martyr's "crown of righteousness". Finally. so that he may shamelessly stand by your unapproachable throne. demanding of him to fulfill the responsibilities of the soul. which equally defines His righteousness and the truthfulness of His word for both the living and dead. the prayer continues: "grant him angelic comfort [Luke 16:22." The common theme of rest in the patriarchs' bosom is once again emphasized. As we observe in Barberini prayers 268 and 269. again focusing significantly on the needs of the living as much as the dead. to reward the monk for his selflessness and self-denial in the ascetic struggle upon earth. The prayer for the deceased bishop is not surprisingly addressed to Christ as lamb of God and simultaneously chief shepherd of the Church. The prayer asks for the monk to attain "a share in the portion of those being saved.S.25]." This theme of forgiveness is the direct result of God's philanthropia. This same vision is
. after whom the bishop's role as caretaker of the flock is ordered. the living and the dead gathered before Him.
is to [his] right. is in the middle. pp. seen and communed. through the bread. As we have said
43 On the Sacred Liturgy 94. 2013). 231ff. through the [triangular bread] particle. See also my book. highlights the divine philanthropia as the unitive force which permeates the cosmos. Symeon of Thessalonika: The Liturgical Commentaries (Toronto. but the content is highly unbalanced. the spiritual and material realms as it does time. albeit in a different phase of their existence.285AB. like the saints who are glorified. . made divine from him who is truly God by nature. To be sure. both of whom are imitators of Christ in their suffering. most of these troparia conclude with a petition for rest. 44 See Εὐχολόγιον τὸ Μέγα. by the cemeteries that surround local parish churches. MA. that "neither death nor life. 41. Little material in the canon possesses a disheartening thematology and chiefly that which reflects upon the consequences of the Fall. who was incarnated for them. The Damascene Idiomela45 and the troparia of the final farewell 46 are replete with macabre and dismal imagery more so than the canon. in the middle him the true light. although it appears that this cycle appeared even earlier in the Middle East and eventually was adopted in Constantinople in the eleventh century. And this is the future kingdom and the polity of eternal life: God with us. and redefines human relationships by bestowing upon them an intrinsic and permanent value radically different from that which we do. 413-14. Symeon's otherworldly vision of the redeemed Church in the aforementioned text proposes a valuable pastoral tool: the recognition that bodily death does not sever the bonds of unity shared by the living and the deceased who believe in the resurrected Lord. St. Suggestions Towards a Viable Solution In the modern funeral service. Muksuris: Revisiting the Orthodox Funeral Service
described vividly by Symeon of Thessalonike (+1429) in his monumental work Περὶ τῆς Θείας Μυσταγωγίας (On the Sacred Liturgy). where this experience is applied to the holy prothesis:
But let us understand how also through this divine symbol and through the work of the holy proskomide we see Jesus himself and his Church all as one. 45 See Εὐχολόγιον τὸ Μέγα. . Ed. ed. pp. the saints and angels [smaller triangular particles] are on [his] left. The ninth-century hymnographers Joseph and Theophanes established the weekly cycle of commemorating the martyrs and the dead on Saturday. Spyridon Zervos (Athens. shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord". Sadly. consequently. this central element of the funeral matins service is absent from Greek parochial usage although present in the modern Slavic and Antiochian recensions but in a very abbreviated form. whose struggles for Christ and corresponding rewards are compared to those of the dead. pp. 46 Ibid. p.S. [and the Church] having gained eternal life. hence. p. Economia and Eschatology: Liturgical Mystagogy in the Byzantine Prothesis Rite (Brookline. See Velkovska. 408-13. remain full members of the sacramental Church and so continue to offer the worship due to God together with the living. namely. 417-20. the canon for the dead 44 is replete with imagery focusing on the holy martyrs. This unity was first conveyed by the ancient catacombs where Christians gathered for the Eucharist and later on up to our own day. Those fallen asleep. which clash thematically with the more dominant theme of hopefulness and joy in the Resurrection. and trans. and below is the pious gathering of all who have believed in him [small particles]. The Pauline assurance in Romans 8:38-39. For he. And this is the great mystery: God among men and God in the midst of gods.43
Finally. Velkovska notes that in the Chrysostomian Urtext. death. to have their own respective troparia and stichera interspersed throughout the ordinary liturgical material for Saturday. and Steven Hawkes-Teeples. the appropriateness of allowing the dead to "share" a liturgical day with the saints and. no distinction was drawn between in the intercessions for the saints and the dead: the offering was made for both. Page 11
. illumined by him and sustained. 2008). 2011). . PG 155. and resurrection. his Mother.
This leads me to a more reasonable solution. Let us begin with the most radical and surely the most unpopular and unrealistic. much like the designated rite for the dead during Renewal Week. 214-17.S. 206-07. the
47 The Priest's Service Book. 264) is read in the funeral service only once. for whom the content of the funeral service is more important than for the dead. 49 Calivas. Death is a fearsome. this hodgepodge of conflicting notions poses as much a theological as well as pastoral difficulty. The issue here is that those themes perceived as "negative" cannot be discarded entirely because of their highly didactic value that requires the acceptance of a certain realism. Perhaps existing variant prayers of consolation may be attached to the prayers of repose or new ones may be composed that match the general thematic flow of each prayer. This is a liturgical anomaly. On this side of death man reflects on the eschatological unknown. which will take into careful consideration the suggestions made by liturgical scholars earlier in this paper.48 The prayer is preceded by the usual diaconal litany and followed by the trinitarian doxological formula. Page 12
. each subsequent priest intones the doxological ekphonesis without a preceding litany but more importantly without a preceding prayer.47 as in the Trisagion conducted in the home and at the grave. To overcome this dueling thematology in the funeral rite.". pp. and the repose . It naturally compels mortals to readily accept the transience of human life and to live in a morally responsible way in preparation for the afterlife. the promise of resurrection and peaceful rest appear as a sort of afterthought. for which several solutions are possible. one which would eliminate the frightful and depressing themes and instead borrow resurrection elements almost exclusively. the inclination prayer of consolation that follows the prayer of repose must likewise be incorporated into the service. one cannot effectively conduct the funeral service without allotting equal attention to meeting the pastoral needs of the grieving survivors. given the repertory of variant prayers for repose provided by Barberini and other sources. The typical prayer of repose (a modified version of Barberini no. 48 Ibid. . it stands to reason in concelebrations that the liturgical unit comprising the diaconal petitions. and ekphonesis should be interspersed throughout the entire rite. presidential prayer. sadly repeated in other Byzantine services and most especially in the Divine Liturgy. .49 So. since it traditionally forms an expanded liturgical unit common in cathedral vespers and matins. and since the presidential prayers represent seemingly older material that preserves biblical and early Christian notions centering on hopefulness in the resurrection. So fear indeed conditions man's behavior. these prayers should be interspersed more evenly throughout the service. the life. In addition. Nevertheless. pp. pp. non-discriminating force that exerts its destructive potency on all living creatures. on the other side of death awaits the judgment. The entire funeral service should be discarded and a new service written. "For You are the resurrection. Naturally. In concelebrations. Muksuris: Revisiting the Orthodox Funeral Service
earlier. 228-29. for which the purpose of the trinitarian ekphonesis is to serve as the seal or katakleida. in the modern practice. As alluded to earlier. I propose that this hope should dominate the entire funeral liturgy and thus be interspersed more evenly throughout the service. in Christ the unknowability and sting of death are overcome but in the service.
the petitions need to be rewritten so as to reflect the different categories of the deceased. The prayer requests that the oil become "an anointing of incorruption. 54 Ibid. a renewal of soul and body. more in line with the Byzantine ethos. like the baptismal font. Another vital modification to the rite is the restoration of the baptismal and paschal vision. Γ. Muksuris: Revisiting the Orthodox Funeral Service
resurrection of such cathedral elements in the funeral rite will not only encourage popular participation but also assist in the grieving process in a more constructive Christian way. "to which. pp. 67-68ff. and a release from evil.53 For example.52
Galadza advocates for a "middle-road" solution. and eulogies. 72 for a monk. as well as the Synoptic and Johannine accounts of the
50 Velkovska. "Funeral Rites in the East". 54 and he even advocates for a restoration of Old Testament readings to the funeral. I propose as alternate lections the raising of Lazarus in John 11:1-45. which received its final form in the sixteenth century. or reducing this enfleshment. Ecclesiastes 3:20 and Psalm 102:14) for the earth."51 The tomb.Χ. from which the modern rite suffers terribly. or particular. . but it is not accompanied by any prayer that suggests this paschal connection. In addition. p. The historical precedent for such diversity is accounted for in the comparison of the modern received text. to all those who are anointed with it in faith. the Byzantine "one-size-fits-all" approach for funerals of laypersons (small children excepted) carries the danger. 69-70 for a layperson and p. pp. 52 Galadza. especially Protestants." While this sometimes carries the danger of suppressing or ignoring fundamental aspects of revelation.S. gr. to the homily. as it were. However. which entails the avoidance of an excessive variety common in the West and the incorporation of a "sustainable diversity". especially those from the Isaian corpus with their emphasis on social justice and God's righteous judgment. and the earliest complete funeral rite in any Byzantine manuscript. and may hamper popular participation because of the infinite number of options that are provided . as a womb that gives new birth in Christ. . which has lost a member. hymnography. 72. a defense against every influence of the Devil. he is also cognizant of the challenge of diversity when he writes:
Anyone familiar with funerary practice among Western Christians. 53 Ibid. the litanies should go a step further by making specific requests not only for the dead (by progressing beyond the "forgiveness" and "rest" language) but also for the surviving relatives and for the healing of the community."50 Velkovska has noted that the blessing of the oil for the anointing of the dead uses the same formula as in the blessing of the oil for the pre-baptismal anointing. should be understood as a locus of transformation and transition that propels the person of faith who descends into it into eternal life. together with the pouring of earth over the deceased.β. of not incarnating the word in concrete. a weapon of justice. realizes the extent to which funerals are "customized. . 353. p. The anointing today. on the other hand. the tenth-century Crypt. flesh. However. The usual verses associated with these last rites are Psalm 50:7 (LXX) for the oil. the second of which is avowedly abrupt and dejecting. at best. 67. . the earliest ritual for the Byzantine Rite bears unequivocal witness. Galadza has recommended a greater diversity in the readings. . 51 The Priest's Service Book. Galadza offers examples of alternate New Testament readings that were included in the antiphons comprising the tenth-century rite. Page 13
. as we have seen. is done at the conclusion of the funeral service or at the grave. p. Psalm 23:1 (cf.
Calivas have correctly stressed time and time again with regard to the liturgical life of the Church. made divine from him who is truly God by nature. Insofar as the funeral service in the Orthodox Church has sought historically to minister to the living both theologically and pastorally (in addition to formalizing the rite of passage for the dead within a Christian context).S. New compositions today can be constructed to fit into traditional known melodies. who was incarnated for them. Galadza reminds us that in the Middle Byzantine era. CONCLUSION As Fr. most especially the Divine Liturgy and the funeral service. who not only reveals divine truth but also bestows upon the faithful the wisdom to adapt a meaningful liturgical expression in creative continuity with the past. it maintains a certain level of sacramentality that is too often ignored or forgotten. etc. Both the living and the dead not only appear "ὁμοθυμαδὸν ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτό" ("with one accord in one place". A final consideration has to do with the composition of new hymnographical canons for different categories of deceased persons and for different existential situations (suffering and death due to illnesses. I wish to recall Symeon's eschatological vision mentioned earlier in this study: "And this is the great mystery: God among men and God in the midst of gods."56 When the funeral rite is conducted within the context of a eucharistic liturgy. Taft and Fr. Acts 2:1).
55 Ibid. God in the midst of gods. Page 14
. in other words. The centrality of resurrectional hope and victory is paramount in the Christian faith. which could also incorporate more resurrectional and biblical material. the Morning Gospels of Sunday Matins. sadly eclipsed in the rite or relegated to the status of a consolatory afterthought. This selection will ensure that the funeral service retains a strong resurrectional character. offering petitions for the welfare of each other. 56 See note 43 above.55 Usually chanters had the freedom to select their material from the kontakaria or canonaria. Hopefully this paper has built yet one more case for the latter's much overdue revision toward a more positive thematology. we are never guided by a retrospective ideology but by the living Holy Spirit. the aforementioned paschal themes are celebrated by the entire Church on both sides of death.sanctified and united in the fellowship of Almighty God. it should condition Christian thinking and behavior and so permeate all liturgical rites.). 73. accidents. p. but they also visually comprise the redeemed Church present before the divine throne . Muksuris: Revisiting the Orthodox Funeral Service
Resurrection. euchologia typically lacked the kontakion and canon and only included the rubrics specifying where in the rite these forms were to be inserted. which can facilitate lay participation. Before concluding.