I do not think that any of us has any doubt about the fact that we all have an obligation to bury the dead. Everybody does it. Everybody always has done it. It is the law of the land and is one of the “works of mercy” as our church teaches.
Besides the obvious reasons why we have always done it, there are very serious reasons behind this obligation. There are reasons why in different places and different cultures the ceremony of burying the dead have become very elaborate and complex.
Because we may not know the history of the tradition which grew up around funerals, we try to shorten, modify, and otherwise make our funerals more simple.
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In our death avoidant culture, some prefer to avoid attending funerals, especially if the deceased is not from our family.
In the Bible, in the book of Tobit, we read that Tobit was thrown out of his society because he did the will of God and buried the dead, especially criminals. Something at that time no-one wanted to do, but God through Tobit said that it was His will that everybody deserves to be properly buried.
Ancient cultures, and our own Ukrainian culture, have developed a funeral ritual which serves our mind and soul in this very sensitive time of life. Our funeral customs as a whole help us in grief, mourning and letting go which actually help us in painful times of separation. I suppose you can say that funeral ceremonies serve us by helping to heal us in our time of need.
This ancient practice helps us to keep a sense of stability and normality at a time of sorrow and grief. I mean the whole religious ritual, during the time before a person dies
Many of life rituals are important for our wellbeing, for example, birthday parties, weddings, graduations, and other moments of achievement.
Funerals are more special, however. They amongst other things, publicly express the love we have for family members or other community members. Established rituals are important because they provide a support system for our common beliefs and values. He put us at ease. They express our faith and feelings when we may not be able to express ourselves in words. The funeral ceremony may say things we can’t find the language for. Some of the world’s greatest minds praise funeral rituals for helping us manage our expressing grief.
Our funeral customs as a whole help us in grief, mourning and letting go which actually help us in painful times of separation.
Christian funerals involve preparing or entrusting the deceased to God and praying for the deceased to find peace in the afterlife. Even so-called atheists talk about preparing the person for whatever lies beyond life.
Australia is one of the least religious countries of the world but the number of performed funerals stays the same because as psychologists say “Ritual behaviour provides order and stability in time of chaos and disorder”.
In short, we thank God for our Ukrainian spiritual culture. Respect and observe funeral traditions. This ancient practice helps us to keep a sense of stability and normality at a time of sorrow and grief. I mean the whole religious ritual, during the time before a person dies. Those customs prescribed for the funeral itself, and even those observed after the funeral. They are all a blessing from God on us at an hour of need.
Bishop Peter Stasiuk C.Ss.R. AM
This article was published in The Church and Life Newspaper
This post is also available in: Ukrainian