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Order of Burial and Parastas
CONCERNING PARASTAS AND ORDER OF BURIAL
ORDER OF BURIAL: At present the practice on the occasion of a funeral is the following: a vigil service, usually the Panakhyda, is served at the funeral home on one or both evenings of visitation and on the day of burial, excerpts from the Order of Burial and then, a Requiem Divine Liturgy. However, according to the Service Books, the actual Burial Service is an extended form of the Parastas, concluding with the Readings, Homily and Final Kiss. I have found that with most funerals a return to this order is pastorally advisable.
At St. Elias Church, we have restored the practice of having the body of the orthodox Christian placed in the church rather than the funeral home, at least for the evening before the Funeral. If done so, in this setting it is possible to divide the service over two evenings: The first evening to Psalm 50 and the Panakhyda; the second evening from Psalm 50, through the Canon, and concluding once again with the Panakhyda. By tradition, the Psalter is read between services.
On the day of burial itself, the service is taken as on the first evening. Then, just before Psalm 50, the singers may proceed immediately to the Stichera of St. John Damascene and the subsequent readings. In parishes where the custom has been established and pastoral prudence warrants a Funeral Divine Liturgy, it is suggested that this follow the Epistle and Gospel Readings. The Final Kiss and concluding rites take place after the Ambo Prayer.
PARASTAS - This is the memorial service of the Greek Catholic Church. Those requesting the service bring a loaf of sweet bread or a bowl of "kutya" (“kolyvo”) to be placed on the tetrapod and shared after the service in memory of the reposed. At one time this was the standard memorial service. However, due to its complexity and length and the change of venue of the service from the church to the funeral home, the service today is often reduced to its conclusion, the brief Panakhyda. For a number of reasons, where the community is able, it is recommended that the Parastas be restored to use.
Please note that the above requires a prepared and dedicated group of singers and a parish community that is capable of this departure from its usual practice. Time will show whether such a development will be for the edification and salvation of souls.