Cremation & the Orthodox Church

If your interest in this subject: “Cremation & the Orthodox Church” is to know if cremation is allowed in the Orthodox Church, the answer is “No!” and there is no reason to continue to read further.

If your interest in this subject is to learn “Why cremation is not allowed in the Orthodox Church”, then take a few more moments and continue to read on.

Please be advised that I take no position on the issue of cremation as a legitimate means of disposition of a recently departed person. My purpose only is to share perspectives on the issue of cremation, why it works for some, and why it does not work for those in the Orthodox Christian Community.

I shall begin by briefly outlining the reasons why more and more families are opting for cremation as a means of disposition of their loved ones; after which I shall present the Orthodox perspective as to why cremation is not an acceptable means of disposition of a departed loved one.

Many are encouraged to believe that the body we enjoy is evil by design and that it is held in bondage even though it houses the soul. These same believers have decided that upon our earthly passing, the evil body can be destroyed, desecrated, or disposed of at will as its purpose has been fulfilled. Many adopt this position in support of cremation for purely personal and / or financial reasons.

It is a fact, we live in a disposal society where whatever we buy or purchase, when it no longer works as it originally was intended, we dispose of it and buy a newer model. With this philosophy becoming so inbred in our daily lives, many turn to cremation as a means of convenience wherein they believe their time and effort can be more productive in engaging in other matters rather than going through a 3-4 day funeral process. Secondly, and even more important to many, “if I cremate mom or dad the cost will be less and I stand to benefit more financially!” As sick as this may sound, one need only to speak with elder, estate, and trust attorneys and listen to the litany of horror stories they are willing to share when it comes to dealing with families at the time of the passing of a family member.

In order to rationalize and support the act of cremation, each of us has heard the reasoning, “We are running out of land and cemetery space, so we need to accept cremation as our means of disposition of our departed loved ones!” Is this explanation in support of cremation a valid argument or a frivolous attempt to create a comfort position in support of cremation?” You decide!

Orthodox Christians believe the body is a gift from God! Orthodox Christians believe the body must now and always be treated with dignity and respect, and that the body does not belong to us; but is the essence of the Holy Spirit wherein the soul resides during our earthly journey.

Hence the Orthodox Church doctrine maintains that the body is equally as valuable on earth as is the soul in eternity. Eastern Orthodox tradition tells us that when we are resurrected upon the Second Coming of Christ, we will be resurrected in our physical bodies as was Jesus. Orthodox Christians believe that as Jesus was buried after being crucified (and not cremated as many were at that time) that they too are to be buried following the example of Jesus Christ.

The Orthodox Church does not allow for a funeral service to be conducted by an Orthodox Priest in an Orthodox Church for a person being cremated. There are (have been) exceptions where the Orthodox Christian met an unexpected tragic death wherein the deceased’s remains were compromised by acts or actions beyond ones control.

In summation, the Orthodox Church does not recognize or accept cremation as a means of disposition of a departed Orthodox Christian; for the Orthodox Church’s belief is that the body and soul will be reunited at the Last Judgment.


Join us for the next topic – “The Evil Eye and the Orthodox Church!”

In an effort to provide updated resources to families confronting the process of saying “good-bye” to a departed loved one, we will regularly be providing new content in the form of articles and interviews. If there is a topic you would like us to address, feel free to send us your suggestion.

Posted on October 1, 2014 and filed under Eastern Orthodox Beliefs, Burial.