Monday, January 21, 2008

Not to be morbid, but.....

Yesterday I caught a brief news piece on TV about the practice of Natural Burial.

"Natural burial" really is mostly what we Orthodox have always preferred to do, excepting that we do have a churchyard with headstones rather than trees (and in fact, here in the Lower Mainland, I think we mostly have to make do with general cemeteries rather than a parish churchyard attached to the church.) In some countries, there were/are wooden crosses rather than stones; and often, after decomposition, bones are dug up and removed to an ossuary so the grave can be reused. This is how some saints have been discovered to be incorrupt after death.

That seems bizarre to us in our death-denying, mechanistic culture. We need to remember that for most of history, this was just normal.

What left me aghast was the numbers cited on the TV report: apparently some NINETY PER CENT of British Columbian deceased are dispatched by means of cremation, a practice that is abhorred by the Orthodox church and only reluctantly permitted in jurisdictions where it is compulsory, such as Japan, or in case of an epidemic or disaster.

These articles on the Natural Burial site explode the concept that cremation is good for the environment, and describe how conventional burial is also bad. A summary of how cremation is actually done is found here.

Here is an article by the late Fr. Victor Sokolov (formerly of Holy Resurrection Vancouver) about Orthodox funeral practice.

Lots to think about. Is there in our future here the possibility of the Orthodox getting together to get our own burial ground somewhere not too far out of town, where we can do an Orthodox version of "natural burial"? Unless I am mistaken, as of now, most local authorities here in BC require either the conventional embalming or cremation. At the least, perhaps some of us should be thinking of getting together and buying a bunch of plots in some Fraser Valley Cemetery so that we can have an 'Orthodox area' where we can bless the graves together, even if we must still have conventional burial. I think the Greeks do have a "Greek section" in one or two of the Vancouver area cemeteries.

Any thoughts, anyone? We are such a young parish, we have done only a handful of funerals, most of those for non-members, over the 20 plus years we have been here. But unless the Lord comes, we will all face death one day. I think now is the time to start considering these very practical possibilities. Ideas?


RW said...

This is a good idea M. Donna. T likes to research topics... maybe I will set him upon the task to find if BC has certain requirements.... I know there is still space in the Fort cemetery and that is where wanted to be buried - maybe we could see if there is a small section that hasn't been spoken for.

Bro Cyp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bro Cyp said...

Slightly off topic, but I've decided what I want as an epitaph:

Monk Cyprian
(personal details, blah, blah, blah...)

I told you I was sick.

earthartist said...

Natural Burial Around the World

A natural burial allows you to use your funeral as a conservation tool to create, restore and protect urban green spaces.

The modern concept of natural burial began in the UK in 1993 and has since spread across the globe. According the Centre for Natural Burial, there are now several hundred natural burial grounds in the United Kingdom and half a dozen sites across the USA, with others planned in Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and even China.

The Centre for Natural Burial provides comprehensive resources supporting the development of natural burial and detailed information about natural burial sites around the world. With the Natural Burial Co-operative newsletter you can stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the rapidly growing trend of natural burial including, announcements of new and proposed natural burial sites, book reviews, interviews, stories and feature articles.

The Centre for Natural Burial

Magdalen said...

I think Mum intending to type that "cremation is bad for the environment" rather than good for it.

90%!! It's shocking.

Gabriela E. said...

Thank you for this, Matushka Donna.

I immigrated to Canada and I have still to come to terms with things (or go back). One of them is the place dead people have in the Canadian society. I really mean "they have a place in the society". I hate to lecture by "in Romania we do things that way...". Still, I find practices in Eastern Europe of putting dead people during the pre-burial services in the places they belonged to (middle of their house, for e.g.) where members of their community can come and say a last good bye, a very healthy tradition. Also, the places of the cemeteries in the middle of cities, villages. Nobody is horrified by that in Eastern Europe. As children, cemeteries were places where we were even playing (when we were not bringing offerings or prayers for our dead) and nobody was horrified. Dead is not morbid, Christ conquered it for our sake! And healthy societies should not treat it that way. Least they decay.

Death should be demystified, a sign that it has been conquered and an assurance the dead person will rise again!

I feel the Western fear* of Death destroys little by little any balance in society (as I could see it in Western Europe). Until when the West thinks it can run away from death (and therefore from the assurance Christ gave us)?

Love into Christ,


*As our beloved Archbishop Seraphim said last Sunday, fear is the instrument by which the red guy below wants to keep us prisoners.