On the Death of a Christian

A fellow parishioner is being taken off life support soon, and we are beginning preparations for his funeral. I have begun looking at the funeral for an Orthodox Christian, and I am struck by how theologically rich the service is. Here is an excerpt of the Funeral Service (after the Greek Orthodox tradition).

Detail of the Dormition [falling asleep] of the Theotokos

Detail of the Dormition [falling asleep] of the Theotokos

Look upon me and have mercy on me, in accordance with the judgement of those who love your name. Alleluia.

I am young and despised; I have not forgotten your statutes. Alleluia.

Hear my voice, O Lord, in accordance with your mercy; in accordance with your judgement give me life. Alleluia.

Rulers have persecuted me for no reason; and my heart has been in awe of your words. Alleluia.

My soul will live and praise you; and your judgements will help me. Alleluia.


I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek out your servant, because I have not forgotten your commandments.

Evlogitaria for the dead in Tone 5

Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me your statutes.

The choir of Saints has found the source of life and the door of Paradise; may I too find the way through repentance; I am the lost sheep, call me back, O Saviour, and save me.

Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me your statutes.

You Holy Martyrs, who proclaimed the Lamb of God, and like lambs were slain, and have been taken over to the unending life which knows no ageing, plead with him to grant us abolition of our debts.

Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me your statutes.

All you who trod in life the hard and narrow way; all you who took the Cross as a yoke, and followed me in faith, come, enjoy you in faith, come, enjoy that heavenly rewards and crowns which I have prepared for you.

Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me your statutes.

I am an image of your ineffable glory, though I bear the marks of offences; take pity on your creature, Master, and with compassion cleanse me; and give me the longed-for fatherland, making me once again a citizen of Paradise.

Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me your statutes.

Of old you formed me from nothing and honoured me with your divine image, but because I transgressed your commandment, you returned me to the earth from which I was taken; bring me back to your likeness, my ancient beauty.

Blessed are you, O Lord, teach me your statutes.

Give rest, O God, to your servant (s) , and settle them (him/her) in Paradise, where the choirs of the Saints and all the Just shine out like beacons; give rest to your servant (s) who has/have fallen asleep, overlooking all their (his/her) offences.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Triadikon.


Let us devoutly hymn the threefold light of the one Godhead as we cry: Holy are you, the Father without beginning, the Son likewise without beginning and the divine Spirit; enlighten us who worship  and snatch us from the everlasting fire.

Both now and for ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.


Hail, honoured one, who bore God in the flesh for the salvation of all; through you the human race has found salvation; through you may we find Paradise, O pure and blessed Mother of God.

Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

Glory to you, O God (x3) .

Tone 8.

With the Saints give rest, O Christ, to the soul of your servant, where there is no toil, nor grief, nor sighing, but everlasting life.

And after the Ekphonesis, we begin the Idiomels.

By Monk John, the Damascene.

Tone 1.

What pleasure in life remains without its share of sorrow? What glory stands on earth unchanged? All things are feebler than a shadow, all things are more deceptive than dreams; one instant, and death supplants them all. But, O Christ, give rest to him You have chosen in the light of your countenance and the sweetness of your beauty, as You love mankind.

Tone 2.

Alas, what an ordeal the soul endures once separated from the body! Alas, what tears then, and there is none to pity her! She turns towards the Angels, her entreaty is without effect; she stretches out her hands to men, she has none to help. Therefore my dear brethren, thinking on the shortness of our life, let us ask of Christ rest for him who has passed over, and for ourselves his great mercy.

Tone 3.

Everything human which does not survive death is vanity; wealth does not last, glory does not travel with us; for at death’s approach all of them disappear; and so let cry out to Christ the Immortal one: Give rest to him who has passed from us, in the dwelling of all those who rejoice.

Tone 4.

Truly most fearful is the mystery of death, how the soul is forcibly parted from the body, from its frame, and how that most natural bond of union is cut off by the will of God. Therefore we entreat you: Give rest in the tents of your just ones, him/her who has passed over, O Giver of life, Lover of mankind.

Another, outside the Typikon.

Tone 4.

Where is the attraction of the world? Where the delusion of the temporary? Where is gold, where silver? Where the throng and hubbub of servants? All dust, all ashes, all shadow. But come, let us cry out to the immortal King: O Lord, grant your eternal good things to him who has passed from us, giving him rest in the happiness which does not age.

Tone 5.

I remembered how the Prophet cried out: I am earth and ashes; and I looked again into the tombs and saw the naked bones, and I said: Who then is a king or a soldier, a rich man or a beggar, a just man or a sinner? But give rest, O Lord, with the just to your servant.

Tone 6.

Your command which fashioned me was my beginning and my substance; for wishing to compose me as a living creature from visible and invisible nature, you moulded my body from the earth, but gave me a soul by your divine and life-giving breath. Therefore, O Christ, give rest to your servant in the land of the living, in the tents of the just.

Tone 7.

Give rest, our Saviour, to our brother/sister , whom you have taken over from transient things, as he/she cries, ‘Glory to you!’

Another, outside the Typikon.

Tone 7.

Having fashioned man in the beginning in your image and likeness, you placed him in Paradise to govern your creatures; but led astray by the envy of the devil he tasted the food and became a transgressor of your commandments; and so you condemned him, O Lord, to return again to the earth from which he had been taken, and to beg for rest.

Tone 8.

I grieve and lament when I contemplate death, and see the beauty fashioned for us in God’s image lying in the graves, without form, without glory, without shape. O the wonder! What is this mystery which has happened to us? How have we been handed over to corruption, and yoked with death? Truly it is at God’s command, as it is written, God who grants rest to him who has passed over.

Priest: O God of spirits and all flesh, who trampled down death and crushed the devil, giving life to your world; do you, Lord, give rest to the soul of your servant N. , who has fallen asleep, in a place of light, a place of green pasture, a place of refreshment, whence pain, grief and sighing have fled away. Pardon, O God, as you are good and love of mankind, every sin committed by him/her in word or deed or thought, because there is no one who will live and not sin, for you alone are without sin; your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and your word is truth. For you are the resurrection, the life and the repose of your servant N. , who has fallen asleep, Christ our God, and to you we give glory, together with your Father who is without beginning and your all-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages.

People: Amen.

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