Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Greek Orthodox Funeral

A co-worker lost his mother this weekend. The funeral service was this morning. Beth knows Steve, as well.

The service was to be at the Greek Orthodox church in Lexington, my home town. I had no idea there was a Greek Orthodox church in Lexington. It was located on a road I’m very familiar with.

We got to what I thought was the right place. In sooth, it was Episcopalian, and the door was locked (cue symbolism). Beth noticed across the street a little chapel. From the outside it gives little impression. I guess I never gave it notice. We were a little late because of my misunderstanding. The service had begun but people were still entering.

The images and iconography inside the church gave an almost visceral effect. The Unitarian church my family went to, there on Lexington’s Green, is rather elegant inside but clearly with a Puritan soul. A crisp, boring place. Frankly, the place was more about bake sales than spiritual comfort. I’m not taking back that remark.

The atmosphere was surprisingly comforting. The images were beautiful and the singing by the priests as they shifted between Greek and English. A patriarch or whatever he’s called led the service, one of the other two turned out to be the parish priest. I won’t describe the service any further except to say it was moving.

The most moving part came when the parish priest spoke about Steve’s mother. He looked fairly young, maybe in his 40s. He clearly had a connection with Steve’s mother. I guess by the presence of the Patriarch that she was much-respected in the community. The parish priest was extremely emotional as he spoke, taking frequent pauses to compose himself. It was stunning to witness that touching embrace by a religious figure. After the service, he hugged family members in the most tender way. Us WASPs must be soulless.

The funeral was open casket. After the service people were invited to kiss the deceased. I watched anxiously to see if this were a requirement. Beth assured me it was not.

As Beth said, this was the second funeral we’ve attended this year that actually offered a feeling of comfort and reassurance. Religion lays too much weight on angry differences, as if we all aren’t in the same plight. It’s nice to know that churches can contain loving kindness.

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