Why is death seen as sad
"... so that you are not sad" - Christian approach to dying and death
"Your memory will last forever, ... we will always remember you!"
(Orthodox funeral service)
Because the Church as the body of Jesus Christ, according to the Protestant and Orthodox understanding, includes both the living and the dead, we remember the dead. Both traditions have developed their own forms of worship in their own cultural contexts. Both of them also know the custom of remembering the deceased in a family setting.
The Protestant Church cares for the memory of the deceased on the last Sunday of the church year, the "Sunday of the Dead" or the "Sunday of Eternity". The ordinances of worship offer two different emphases in terms of content: The “Day of Remembrance of the Dead”, which is also called “Sunday of the Dead”, reflects the finiteness of life with the words of the 90th Psalms: “Lord, teach us to remember that we must die, for that we become wise ”(Psalm 90:32). The weekly song of the Sunday of the Dead opposes this knowledge with a "nonetheless" spoken from the confidence of faith:
Good and blood, body, soul and life / is not mine, God alone / it is who’s given. / If he wants to come back to himself, / take it; I want to honor him / still cheerfully.
Evangelical Hymnal 370
The order of worship for "Eternity Sunday" points in a special way to the consolation in dying. The biblical reading of the parable of the five wise virgins calls for spiritual alertness: "Let your loins be girded and your lights burned" (Luke 12:35). The weekly song of eternity Sunday "Wake up, the voice calls us" takes up this motif:
Zion hears the watchmen singing, / her heart leaps for joy, / she wakes up and gets up quickly. / Your friend comes splendidly from heaven, / strong by grace, mighty in truth, / your light becomes bright, your star rises. / Now come, you dear Crown, / Lord Jesus, Son of God! / Hosanna! / We all follow to the joy room / and hold the Lord's Supper.
Evangelical Hymn Book 147
In many evangelical church services, the names of the deceased are read out on the Sunday of the Dead / Eternity Sunday. The relatives of the deceased are often invited to prayers in the cemeteries, where the graves are decorated for that day.
The Orthodox Church differentiates between commemoration of the dead for the individual who has died and general commemoration of the dead for all deceased Christians.
After the death of an Orthodox Christian, the congregation or relatives of the deceased gathers on the third day to pray for him. This day symbolizes the resurrection of Christ.
The most important prayer for the deceased for Orthodox Christians is said on the fortieth day after their death. For, according to the idea of the Orthodox Christians, the soul of the deceased appears before God for the first time at this point. This is a reminder that Christ returned to the Father on the fortieth day after His resurrection.
In addition, depending on local tradition, the deceased will be prayed for on other days. The anniversary commemoration takes place in the church.
Every Saturday in the Orthodox Church is dedicated to the deceased. In addition, the church year has two special Saturdays for the dead (Soul Saturdays): the Saturday before the Great Lent at Easter and the Saturday before Pentecost; In some places the Saturday before the feast of St. Demetrios is also counted. On these Saturdays, the congregation first gathers in the church for the liturgy and then celebrates the general memory of the dead in the cemetery for all those who have died. In some regions, processions to the cemeteries take place on the Friday after Easter or on the Monday after “Thomas Sunday” (the first Sunday after Easter) to share the joy of Christ's resurrection with the dead.
The central concern of the prayers and the liturgical remembrance of the dead is the request for forgiveness of sins and the salvation of the souls of the deceased. Candles are lit, boiled wheat (as a symbol of the resurrection) is served and the grave site is poured cross-shaped with wine.
Even when preparing the gifts for the Eucharist, the priest remembers all the dead who are known to him by name before each Divine Liturgy.
In prayer for the deceased, as an integral part of the divine service, and in regular liturgical memory during the church year, solidarity, care and love that go beyond death are expressed towards the deceased. At the same time, the liturgical texts remind us of our own transience and urge the living to deal responsibly with God's gift of earthly life.
All human things are vain. They do not stay with us after death. Wealth does not remain, fame does not go with us. When death approaches, all of this disappears. Therefore let us call to Christ, the immortal King: Bring to rest, those who have been separated from us, where the abode of those who rejoice in you is.
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