Greek funeral tradition- The Essence of Life and Death with Ocean Funerals director, Raphael Demirgelis

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The Greek culture is embedded with rich ecclesiastical traditions dating back centuries. Every significant event in the Greek community is strongly tied to deep- rooted cultural and religious customs.

One such significant event is the passing of a loved one from this life to the next. Greek funeral tradition is particularly unique in the modern world and holds great significance to our community.

As Greeks of the diaspora, it is important that we uphold and understand the importance of the Greek funeral tradition. Greek City Times discussed the essence of the Greek funeral tradition with funeral director Raphael Demirgelis and the Ocean Funerals team.

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“The essence of a Greek funeral is about love, compassion and asking God for mercy. It is unique to the rest of the world, centred around love and forgiveness.”

In the western world, funerals are about a celebration of a person’s life, their worldly achievements and the legacy they have left behind.

The Greek funeral tradition differs greatly from this. Greeks do not only celebrate the life of the deceased, but they also prepare the soul for the journey into the next life, through prayer and repentance.

In the Greek funeral tradition, we do not only look to celebrate the past of the deceased, however we strongly focus on their future.

This is a very unique concept in modern society, where the dominant view is that the person ceases to exist after death.

“To us, life does not end after death. In our faith, a person’s death on Earth is in fact the beginning of the journey of eternal life.”

This phenomenon described by Raphael, is the true essence of the funeral service, as can be seen in the gospel reading and many of the hymns that are chanted during the service.

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“The Lord said to those Jews which had come to him: Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

“Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.”

As we can see, this excerpt from the gospel reading perfectly epitomises the teachings of the Orthodox faith. Life to Orthodox Christians is not about living, working, dying and then ceasing to exist.

Life is about finding meaning, spiritual struggle, acknowledging and recognising our shortcomings, living with ideals of love at the forefront of our purpose and then finally transcending, through our soul into everlasting life.

Icon of the resurrection. Life after death is the centre of the Greek funeral tradition
Icon of the resurrection. Life after death is the centre of the Greek funeral tradition

The Greek Orthodox faith recognises that humans are perfectly imperfect. That is why, in the Greek funeral tradition, the service is centred around asking God for mercy and forgiveness.

“All-Good King, through me, your humble and unprofitable servant, forgive this Your servant whatsoever mistakes as a human being he (she) has made in this present life: remit for him (her) whatsoever sins he (she) has committed in word, deed, and thought.”

The spirit of forgiveness is the centre of the Greek funeral tradition. This is what separates Greek ecclesiastical culture from the rest of modern society. The holy Greek funeral tradition allows Greeks to have a unique and special outlook to life and death.

Parable of the prodigal son, ultimate example of forgiveness
Parable of the prodigal son, ultimate example of forgiveness

We of course grieve for the loss of a loved one, however, the grief is swiftly followed by hope and understanding that life does not end here on Earth. That is why Greeks do not have “’till death do us part” in our marriage service like the west does because love and life are eternal.

 

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In the madness that is so prevalent in the modern world, it is vitally important that we stay true to our roots and understand the importance of the teachings of our forefathers.

Life does not end at death, it is merely the beginning of a new life, according to the Greek funeral tradition.

This article is brought to you by the Ocean Funerals team.

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