Our Holy Orthodox Church has a number of Special Services and Blessings which are associated with the needs, events, and tasks of human life.
The death of a Christian affects the family, and also Our Church, for we are all part of the Body of Christ. The Funeral Service comforts those who mourn; it is also the means through which the Church prays for one of its members who has died in the faith of Christ.
The various prayers and hymns of Orthodox Funeral Service emphasize the harsh reality of death, as well as the victorious Resurrection of Christ through which the power of death is conquered. Orthodoxy views the end of physical existence only as the termination of one stage of life. God’s love is stronger than death, and the Resurrection of Christ bears witness to this power.
How It Works
The Orthodox Funeral has three stages.
- First, there is a Vigil after death, called the Trisagion , where the Church prays to Christ “to give rest with the Saints to the soul of Your servant where there is neither pain, grief, nor sighing but life everlasting.” While the Church prays for the soul of the deceased, great respect is paid to the body. Orthodoxy believes the body of the Christian is sacred since it was the Temple of the Holy Spirit.
- The Funeral Service is continued at the Church, where the body is brought on the day of burial. Ideally, the Divine Liturgy is celebrated.
- The last stage of the Funeral takes place at the graveside where congregation offers its Farewell to the deceased and the Trisaghion is repeated.
Death does not destroy the bond of love and faith which exists among all the members of the Church. Orthodoxy believes that through our prayers, those “who have fallen asleep in the faith and the hope of the Resurrection” continue to have opportunity to grow closer to God. Therefore, the Church prays constantly for her members who have died in Christ.
We place our trust in the love of God and the power of mutual love and forgiveness. We pray that God will forgive the sins of the faithful departed, and that He will receive them into the company of Saints in the heavenly Kingdom.
According to tradition, the Memorial Service is offered on the third, ninth, and fortieth day after a death, as well as on the yearly anniversary of the death. In addition to these times, the Memorial Service is always offered for all the faithful departed on four “Saturdays of the souls.”
- the two Saturdays preceding Great Lent;
- the first Saturday of Great Lent and
- the Saturday before Pentecost.
The Great Blessing of Water: Megas Agiasmos
Epiphany, one of the oldest and most important Feast days of the Orthodox Church, commemorates the manifestation of the Holy Trinity which took place at the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River.
When Christ entered into the Jordan to be baptized, two things were happening:
- He was identifying Himself with the people He had come to save, and
- He was identifying Himself with the whole of Creation which was represented by water.
Through His baptism, the Lord revealed the value of the created world and He redirected it toward its Creator. Creation is good and it belongs to God. The Blessing affirms that humanity and the created world were created to be filled with the sanctifying presence of God.
After the solemn blessing, the Holy Water is distributed to the faithful and is used to bless homes during the Epiphany season. When the faithful drink the “Epiphany Water,” we are reminded of our own baptism. When the Church blesses an individual, or object, or event with the water, we are affirming that those baptized, their surroundings, and their responsibilities are sanctified through Christ and brought into the Kingdom of the Father through the Spirit.
The Great Blessing of Water is held on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany and on the day itself, following the Divine Liturgy.
Lesser Blessing of Water
This service is celebrated when a home is blessed, on the first day of the month, the beginning of the school year, and beginning of new responsibilities.
The Blessing of Bread Artoklasia
The Blessing of Five Loaves of Bread is a brief service of thanksgiving through which we express our gratitude for all the blessings of life.
Oil, wine, wheat, and the loaves of bread which are used in the service, are viewed as the most basic elements necessary for life. The Blessing reminds us of the miracle of the multiplication of the bread and fish by which Christ fed the multitude.
This Blessing is usually offered during Vespers or after the Divine Liturgy on Feast days and other special occasions. After the Service, the bread is cut and distributed to the congregation.
The most beautiful service of the Orthodox Church in honor of Mary, the Theotokos, is the Akathist Hymn. The word akathist means without sitting.
As one of the hymns declares:
The Akathist Hymn is chanted in four parts during the first four Fridays of Great Lent. On the fifth Friday, the entire Service is chanted.
The Service of Supplication: Paraklisis
The Service of Supplication consists of various prayers that ask the Lord for guidance, personal strength, and healing. Many of the hymns and prayers are directed toward Mary, the Theotokos, and they ask for her assistance.
Orthodoxy affirms that each of us, with Mary, the Saints, and the faithful departed is united in a bond of faith and love in Christ. Therefore, just as in this life we can turn to each other for prayer, the Church believes that we can also turn to Mary – the human being closest to God – and ask her to pray to God for us. This belief is expressed in the hymn which says:
The Service of Supplication is offered during first fourteen days of August which precedes the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos celebrated on August 15th.
The service is also offered at times of sickness, temptation, or discouragement.