The Burial Service (Funeral) for a Priest

Our Euchologion or Trebnyk ("book of needs") provides a special version of the funeral service to be used for a priest or bishop. Because of the great responsibility accorded to priests, this service is significantly longer than the more common funeral for a layman, and contains a number of ancient elements in the funeral which have been dropped from the layman's funeral, or are commonly omitted.

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

The service "in the home"

When a priest dies (according to the Trebnyk), after the body has been washed and dressed in ordinary clothes, several priests should vest him in all his priestly vestments. A panachida is said in the home (or funeral home), with a deacon censing the body continually through the litany. The priest's face is covered with an aer (the cloth used to cover the gifts of bread and wine during the Divine Liturgy), and the body of the departed priest is taken to the church for the funeral service.

The service in the church

When the funeral procession arrives at the church, the casket is set in the church facing East (toward the sanctuary), and candles are placed around it in the form of a cross.

Here is the order of the funeral service for a priest, from the Roman edition of the Malyj Trebnyk (Small Euchologion).

The Burial Service (Funeral) for a Priest
Entrance into the Church with body: Gospel, “Holy God”
Blessing by priest:
“Blessed is our God”

First reading from Psalm 118, with refrains
Small Litany

Second reading from Psalm 118, with refrains
Small Litany

Hymns (Evlogitaria) for the Departed, with refrain:
"Blessed are you, O God; teach me your commandments."
Small Litany
Sessional Hymns in Tone 5:
“O Savior, give rest to your servant”
Sunday Gradual Hymn in Tone 6, Antiphon 1

Epistle (1 Thes. 4:13-17)
Gospel (John 5:24-30)
Sessional Hymn
Psalm 22 (optional)
Epistle (Romans 5:12-21)
Gospel (John 5:17-24)
Sunday Gradual Hymn in Tone 6, Antiphon 2
Psalm 23 (optional)
Troparion, Tone 2
Sessional Hymn, Tone 5
Epistle (1 Cor. 15:1-11)
Gospel (John 6:35-39)
Sunday Gradual Hymn in Tone 6, Antiphon 3
Psalm 83 (optional)
Troparia, Tone 6
Epistle (1 Cor. 15:20-28)
Gospel (John 6:40-44)
Beatitudes, with troparia
Epistle (Romans 14:6-9)
Gospel (John 6:48-54)
Kontakion with 24 oikoi (verses)
Psalm 50

Odes 1 and 3
Small litany
Sessional Hymns in Tone 6:
“All is vanity, indeed”

Odes 4, 5, and 6
Small litany
Kontakion and Ikos for the Departed

Odes 7, 8, and 9
Small Litany for the Deceased

Hymn of Light
Psalms of Praise (Pss. 148-150) with stichera
The Small Doxology
Hymns of St. John Damascene
Ps. 91:2-3
Hymns of Farewell
Trisagion prayers, troparia,
litany, and prayer
Prayer of Absolution
Gospel reading
Procession with body to grave

There are a few ritual peculiarities in a priest's funeral: oil from the shrine lamp is pour upon his face before he is buried, and his face is once again covered with an aer. During procession to the grave, instead of the usual processional hymn "Holy God", the irmosy of the Great Penitential Canon of Saint Andrew of Crete are sung. The graveside service itself is essentially the same as that for any Christ.

Clearly, this is a very long funeral service! It also contains a number of ancient elements which may have once formed part of the layman's funeral. But as we noted above, the grave responsibility a priest has for his ministry makes this level of prayer for him at the time of his death entirely fitting.

In the United States, it has become customary to divide this service into three parts:

For more details, see Singing the Funeral Services for a Priest.

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