The Burial Service (Funeral) for a Young Child

Our Euchologion or Trebnyk ("book of needs") provides a special version of the funeral service to be used when the one who has died is a young child (sometimes translated "infant") who was baptized, but died before the age of personal responsibility. (Some Orthodox books simply say, "before the age of seven.") Where the usual funeral service for a Christian includes many prayers for the forgiveness of their sins, the funeral service for a child focuses instead on God's care for little ones, and his promise of salvation.

For information about the practical aspects of this service, including the music to be used, see Singing the Funeral Service for a Young Child.

The service "in the home"

As with the funeral for an adult, the funeral for a child begins "in the home of the departed" (in our day, this is usually the funeral home) with the following short service:

Opening blessing
"Holy God" and the usual beginning prayers
Troparia for the Departed
Litany for a Departed Child
Prayer
Dismissal
"Eternal memory"

This is, of course, the same service we know in other contexts as a Panachida. But there are a few differences from this service as celebrated for an older person.

In the litany, instead of bidding us to pray for the person who has died and for the forgiveness of their sins, the deacon says:

Again we pray for the repose of the blessed child(ren), (Name/s), that, according to the true promise, the kingdom of heaven may be granted to (him-her-them).

May the Lord God commit (his-her-their) soul(s) to the place where the just repose.

For the mercy of God, for the kingdom of heaven, and for (his-her-their) and our own repose among the saints, let us beseech Christ, the immortal King and our God.

And in place of the usual prayer at end the of the litany, "O God of spirits and of all flesh", the priest prays:

Lord Jesus Christ, our God, you promised to grant the kingdom of heaven to those who have been born of water and the spirit and who have come to you in innocence. You have said, let the children come to me for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven. We humbly beseech you to grant to your servant(s), (this-these) innocent child(ren), (Name/s) who (has-have) now departed from us, the inheritance of your kingdom according to your truthful promise. Grant that we also may live in innocence and, attaining a Christian end of our life, may dwell with all your saints in your heavenly bridal chambers. For you, O Christ our God, are the resurrection, the life, and the repose of all your servants and of your servant(s), the child(ren) (Name/s) now departed, and we give glory to you with your eternal Father, and your all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever and forever.

After this service and at all the funeral services for a child, there is normally no Gospel reading.

The service in the church

Here is the order of the funeral service for a child, from the Roman edition of the Malyj Trebnyk (Small Euchologion). The column on the right shows the service as it is often celebrated in the United States.

The Burial Service (Funeral) for a Child The Burial Service for a Child (current version)
Entrance into the Church with body: Gospel, “Holy God” Entrance into the Church with body: Gospel, “Holy God”
Blessing by priest:
“Blessed is our God”
Blessing by priest:
“Blessed is our God” (or "Blessed is the Kingdom" if there will be a Divine Liturgy)
Psalm 90 Psalm 90
Optional: Canon for a Departed Child  
"Holy God" (as as the Divine Liturgy) "Holy God" (as in the Divine Liturgy)
Prokeimenon
Apostolic Reading
Alleluia
Gospel
Prokeimenon
Apostolic Reading
Alleluia
Gospel
  Divine Liturgy
Hymns of Farewell for a Child Hymns of Farewell for a Child
Trisagion prayers, troparia,
litany, and prayer
Trisagion prayers, troparia,
litany, and prayer
Dismissal
"Eternal memory"
Dismissal
"Eternal memory"
Prayer for a Departed Child Prayer for a Departed Child
Procession with body to grave Procession with body to grave

Obviously, this is a much shorter service than the ordinary funeral.

The canon is usually omitted, but is likely to be restored in the proposed funeral services. The refrain before each troparion is, "O Lord, rest the soul of this child."

Where the Hymns for Farewell for an adult are sung to the special melody Jehda ot dreva from Great and Holy Friday, the hymns for a child are sung to the melody O preslavnaho čuduse (O glorious wonder) from the feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God. We believe that baptized children before the age of personal responsibility, like the Theotokos, will go to heaven with no personal sin.

Who would not mourn, O my child, * your sad departure from this life too soon? * Still a child, you have flown like a sparrow * from your mother’s arms * and sought refuge * with the Creator of all. * Who, then, would not mourn, child, * when they see your face already faded, * once as delightful as a rose?

Who would not sigh, O my child, * and cry out mourning your great charm * and the beauty of your pure life?  Like a ship which leaves no wake * you have slipped away so quickly from my sight. * Come join me * my friends, relatives, * and neighbors, let us bid (him-her) farewell * and consign (him-her) to the grave.

Death is release for children * for they have been untouched by the evils of life. * They attained their reward and heavenly joy. * They are happy in the bosom of Abraham * and now rejoice * along with the divine choirs of holy children. * They dance in faith because * they have departed innocent * of the corruption of sin.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

Once the taste of the tree in Eden * brought grief for Adam. * The serpent spewed out venom through which death entered * to devour the whole human race, * but when the master came * he cast down the dragon * and granted us rest. * Let us, therefore, cry out to him, * spare us, O Savior, * and give rest among the saints * to the one you have taken.

Now and ever and forever.  Amen.

O Theotokos, Virgin, * renewal of the afflicted, * relief of the sick, peace for those who fight, * calm for those who sail the stormy seas, * save your city and your people only protectress of the faithful.

The intonation for "Eternal memory" is:

O blessed and ever-memorable child(ren) (Name/s), may you be remembered forever.

At the end of the service, the priest says a special prayer of commendation:

In the present life, O Lord, you watch over children. In the life to come you prepare a place for them, the bosom of Abraham, and because of their purity a radiant angelic place where the souls of the just abide. You, Christ Master, receive the soul(s) of your servant(s), the child(ren), (Name/s) in peace. For you have said, “Let the children come to me for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” For to you is due all glory, honor, and worship, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever.

The proposed funeral books add a prayer of consolation for those left behind:

Lord, O Lord, comfort of the afflicted, consolation of the sorrowful, and help of all the fainthearted, in your compassion comfort those who are overcome by sorrow for the departed. Heal every pain of sorrow that is in their hearts, and grant rest in the bosom of Abraham to your servant(s) (Name/s) who (has-have) fallen asleep in the hope of resurrection. For you are the repose of your servant(s) (Name/s), and we give glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever.

The service at the grave

The interment service is the same as that for an adult, except for the differences already noted:

The hymn "O gaping earth" is not sung.

Recommended Reading