Singing the Burial Service (Funeral) for a Priest


In the Byzantine Catholic Church in the United States, the funeral services for a priest are usually sung in an abbreviated form, over three nights, following the format in the privately printed book, Office of Christian Burial for a Priest, prepared by Fr. William Levkulic (PDF). This article explains how to lead the singing of the funeral services for a priest according to this book.

The first night

The first night of services consists of the Stations and Evlogitaria (Hymns) for the Departed, following by seven sets of readings, and ending with a Panachida. (The Panachida is not in our Slavonic books; it is added to form a conclusion to the first and second night of services when the whole funeral service is divided up in this way.)

If you have learned how to sing the first part of an ordinary funeral, you should have no problem with this part.

These hymns are following by seven sets of readings, each one consisting of:

Of these, only the prokeimenon should be new to you. Music is NOT provided in the Levkulic, but can be found in this leaflet from the Metropolitan Cantor Institute.

After all the readings, we sing the Beatitudes (again, as at the ordinary funeral) and a panachida for a conclusion.

Two comments:

The second night

The second night of the priest's funeral consists of Psalm 50, the Canon for the burial of a priest, the Great Doxology, and the Hymns of Farewell.

Psalm 50 can be chanted to the usual psalm tone, but there are also several other choices, including the minor psalm tone, and the Carpatho-Rusyn "funeral psalter" melody.

"Holy God" is sung as the body is taken into the church, but there is no Gospel reading.

There is NO music for the canon. Under the circumstances, you can try singing the irmosy to the "common" Tone 6 irmos melodies, and the refrains as follows:

As we discussed with the ordinary funeral, the troparia (hymns of each ode after the irmos) should be chanted by the lector or cantor, not sung.

After the third Ode of the canon, we sing a sessional hymn in Tone 6; music is on page 24 in the ordinary funeral book.

After the sixth Ode of the canon, we sing the (short) kontakion for the departed. This is followed by a full kontakion - that is, a long liturgical poem, each verse (oikos) ending with a refrain sung by the faithful. Here, the refrain is simply a triple Alleluia in Tone 6. The verses themselves should be chanted simply by the clergy. (For some reason, Odes 8 and 9 of the canon are omitted in this book).

Then the Great Doxology is sung; the text is just different enough from our current Great Doxology that you may be better off just chanting it to a psalm tone.

Finally, we sing the Hymns of Farewell (same as in the ordinary funeral service, but it may be opportune to sing more of them if there is a large congregation present), and conclude with a panachida.

The Divine Liturgy

On the third day, a requiem Divine Liturgy is sung - that is, an ordinary Divine Liturgy for the dead. (We will talk about the hymns for this service next week.) After the Ambon Prayer, a Panachida is celebrated, followed by an absolution and the pouring of oil onto the face of the departed priest. A Gospel may be read, and then the body is taken in procession for burial.