Vigil Prayer & Visitations
Vigil Prayer and visitations take place in the evening, the night before the Funeral and Burial, at the funeral home or in the church.
The first prayer service served by the priest is the Panakhyda, or Parastas, which means “to stand by.” Through prayerful intercession, we “stand by” the person that has fallen asleep. This service is about 40 minutes in length.
Visitations may take place before and after the service. During this time, friends and acquaintances have the opportunity to express their condolences to the family. Slide presentations may take place at the hall after the Parastas, or before the service begins.
If the Vigil takes place in the church, the family may request that the body remain in church overnight. Family members are welcome to stay in prayerful vigil by the body as long as they wish. The reading of the Psalter is encouraged.
The casket is traditionally left open during all visitations and prayers. This custom, established by the wisdom of the Church, encourages the faithful to express their sorrow and grief, which in itself is healing. It also allows the living to personally bid farewell with a sense of closure.
On the day of burial, the usual custom is to bring the body in procession from the funeral home to the church for the final Funeral Service. The procession into the church is led by the cross, and a Gospel passage is proclaimed at the entrance. Normally, the Funeral or Burial Service is served without Divine Liturgy and Holy Communion. This service is about 60 minutes in length. If, however, those attending the funeral will be mostly practicing Catholics, the family may request that the Funeral Liturgy be offered with Holy Communion. This service is about 90 minutes in length.
The Burial Service always includes the Final Kiss or Final Farewell. This custom dates back to the fourth century. Family, relatives and friends approach to bid farewell to one who has fallen asleep. They express their love and devotion by kissing the cross, an icon, by touching the person’s hand or the coffin.
The service in church ends with Final Prayers for the Departed, the singing of “Eternal Memory” and the Final Prayer of Absolution.
Procession & Burial
The procession from the church is led by the cross, followed by clergy, the coffin, family, relatives and friends. A Gospel reading is proclaimed at the main doors.
From the church, the body is escorted to the cemetery, where a brief service takes place at the gravesite. If the family wishes, the body may be lowered immediately into the grave.
The practice of cremation has been permitted by the Church. However, as a sign of respect for the integrity of the whole person, it is recommended that the services take place in the presence of the physical body, and that cremation take place only after all the prayers and rites have been completed. Once cremation has taken place, the cremains should be interred at a proper burial site, which not only confirms that the person has been “buried with Christ,” but it also allows for future visitations to the gravesite, for prayers and Memorial Services.
The Memorial Dinner is an important part of the Order of Burial. Eulogies, tributes, testimonials and slide presentations are welcome to take place at any time in the context of the Memorial Dinner.
Please call the priest to make arrangements for the Memorial Liturgy on the Fortieth Day, which brings to close the most intense period of mourning. A Divine Liturgy or Panakhyda may also be requested for the Ninth Day.
The Anniversary is also an important day for prayer. Arrangements should be made to offer a Divine Liturgy for the repose of the soul of the departed on the anniversary of passing.
Donations and Stipends
To pray for the souls of the departed and to bury the dead are works of spiritual and corporal mercy. The clergy are obligated to do both freely. The grace of God is freely given and freely received in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries or Sacraments, including Funerals.
The established tradition with respect to Funerals is to simply offer a donation to the Church on behalf of the departed soul, to support the Church in its mission to the world. In general, the gift offered is $250-400.
Since singing is such an important part of liturgical services, the time of cantors are recognized with an appropriate stipend: $125 for the Prayer Vigil and $150 for the Funeral Service and Burial.
In situations of financial crisis, please inform the priest, who will do whatever possible to assist.