The Orthodox Graveside Service
At the graveside the priest delivers a short Trisagion, or the final committal prayers and the coffin is lowered into the grave. The priest then pours the bottle of oil and red wine, otherwise known as hyssop over the coffin in the form of a cross. The wine represents the last cleansing and the oil represents the last anointing. The priest then places sand in the coffin, again in the form of a cross, which symbolizes returning the body to the earth.
The bible teaches us “...for out of the ground you were taken; you are dust and to dust you shall return” Gen 3:19 and also that the body is expected to be re-joined with the soul at the last judgment.
The religious service having thus been completed, the priest then throws the boiled wheat into the grave. The wheat has no religious significance but is a centuries old custom that symbolises the resurrection at judgement time.
“Truly truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24
The family then approaches to place some sand in the grave which symbolises going back to original roots, back to the earth. Mourners follow on from the family and take their turn in placing some sand and sometimes flowers in the grave.
Once the religious service has ended, some families personalise the graveside service by playing a special song one last time, by serenading the deceased with a bouzouki, lyra or clarinet or by releasing doves, butterflies or balloons.
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