Orthodox Funeral Service Part II

In the last post the pre-funeral liturgies were covered. In this post I would like to look at the actual Funeral Liturgy and some of the symbolism of the things used in the liturgy itself.
After the final litany comes the prayer of forgiveness. This prayer is said by the priest and before the people come up for the final goodbye. A very moving prayer and speaks of the joy that we can all look forward too.

O Most merciful master, Lord Jesus Christ our God, you gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven to your holy disciples and apostles. Then after your third-day resurrection, by your grace, you gave them the power to retain and forgive sins of men, that they be retained in heaven just as they were retained on earth and likewise that they be forgiven in heaven as they were forgiven on earth.

Through your unspeakable love for mankind, you made us worthy, though we are your humble and unworthy servants, to be inheritors of this same your most holy gift and grace. You yourself, most good king, through me your humble and unworthy servant, forgive your servant (N) whatever he has transgressed in this earthly life. Forgive him all which he has done in word deed or thought, releasing him from every form of ban placed on him through his actions of anger or through some other motives or if he is under the ban of a hierarch or some other, due to the envy and though the work of the Devil.

Graciously grant, most good and merciful one, that his soul be established with the saints who from the ages have been pleasing to you and that his body be returned to the elements from which you made it. For you are blessed and glorified to all ages. Amen.

After this prayer, the priest invites the people to come up and say their last goodbye and then the final prayer is said.

The priest holds his hand over the departed and says the following prayer:

May the Lord, Jesus Christ our God, who gave to his holy disciples and apostles the divine command to retain and forgive the sins of those fallen and to us who have received the power to do likewise from them, forgive you all which you have transgressed in this earthly life, voluntarily and involuntarily committed, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
For you are the resurrection, the life and the repose of your servant (N) who has fallen asleep, O Christ God, and we offer glory to you, together with your Father who is without beginning and your all-holy, good and life-creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Then the priest pours olive oil and wine, in the sign of the cross, over the body saying:

Purify me with hyssop until I am clean; wash me until I am whiter than snow.

The wine symbolizes the blood which circulates in our veins and the oil, the announcement of the resurrection.

After this the top of the casket is closed and removed the cemetery for burial.
The symbolism of some of the items used at the funeral:
Candles used around the coffin signify the light which Christ has brought into the world through his Gospel which will guide both the living and the dead until the end of the world.
Incense is used as an offering to God in behalf of the soul of the departed.
Earth is scattered over the casket in the sign of the cross and symbolizes that man is earth and will return to earth.
Ashes from the censer are emptied into the grave as a reminder that man is “earth and ashes.”
Boiled Wheat and Loves of Bread as used in the memorial service because wheat symbolizes resurrection. As a grain of wheat must be buried so that it can bring forth fruit, so a man must be buried in order to be resurrected for eternity.
Next up will be the memorial services in another post.
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