"Nobody runs away from it but embraces it, when time comes, with the great expectation of the encounter with Christ."
Looking Death in the Face or The Aesthetics of Dying
Eastern Orthodox Christianity has a different approach to the reality of our departure from life. Death is regarded as an integral part of life, as birth or growing old is. Of course death is still viewed as an unnatural state of mankind, a consequence of the great fall, but, nevertheless an unavoidable and necessary passage. Nobody runs away from it but embraces it, when time comes, with the great expectation of the encounter with Christ.
Posted by Jill Fallon at January 15, 2013 3:55 AM
Fr. Gherorghe Calciu Dumitreasa, of blessed memory, was telling that in his old village, when someone would fall on the death bed, all the people, including the children, would go forth and ask for forgiveness from the one who was about to pass. After this forgiveness ritual the dying person would then confess his/her sins for the last time and receive Communion to prepare as much as possible for the inevitable encounter with Christ.
After passing, the body would be washed by members of the family, dressed in an outfit prepared in advance and would be deposed in a simple open coffin inside the house. The priest would come and read the eleven Resurrectional Gospels and the family and friends would keep vigil, reading from the Psalter.
On the day of the funeral the priest would bring the body in procession into the Church where the funeral service would take place. The deceased would lay there, resting in an open casket, in the midst of the community he/she belonged to. In the Orthodox Church the deceased are never considered as leaving the communion with the Church. Death is merely a passing from the Militant Church on Earth unto the Triumphant Church in Heaven. The departed are just temporarily missing physically from among us, but awaiting there, just us we do, the great reunion of Christ’s family in the Kingdom to come.
St. Basil the Great teaches therefore that the greatest philosophy is the continuous thought of death. Not in a fatalistic way, but in the spirit of a heightened awareness of our everyday actions and their impact of our state after leaving this life. Instead of being preoccupied on how to hide or make death more bearable by artificial means, we should embrace it and transform it in an element of change in our lives towards a more responsible existence