To cremate, or to not cremate?

 Excerpt of a homily by the reposed Fr. Athanasios Mytilinaios of the Holy Monastery of the Dormition of the Theotokos and Saint Demetrios, at Stomion, Larisa.



Q: Donít you think it would be better to cremate the dead than bury them? Why doesnít the Church go ahead and accept cremation?


A: One reason the Church does not accept it, is that burial of the dead rather than cremation has been a human custom for almost all nations since time immemorial.  Although there have been some exceptions throughout history, of course...

Burying the deceased is something natural. When something is no longer alive, it will eventually disintegrate and be incorporated among the other elements of the earth. Think of a dead animal for example; if we donít bury it in the soil, the whole area will become a source of infection.  

Cremation is less natural, because by burning whatever is dead, we violate natureís normal processes. Furthermore, burials prevail among the Christian faithful, not only because our Lord Jesus Christ was buried, but also because it is the natural thing to do.  

 Some people claim that cremation might interfere with the resurrection. It would be ridiculous, to even think that cremation could impede the dead from being resurrected;  Johnís Revelation states clearly (20:13) : ď  And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged, every man according to their worksĒ.  Nothing will impede Resurrection - not even fire. What God will do to raise the bodies back from the dead, is a matter of His power, will, wisdom and love.  

 By burying our dead, we approach the mystery of death more intimately, while the whole experience provides us with an intense expectation of the final resurrection. We bury them like seeds, to see them come alive in the future. The Apostle Paul (1 Cor.15:42-44) clarifies this, as follows:

ďSo is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.  If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body."

The Church could not possibly accept cremation of the dead for another reason also:  the holy remains of Her deceased Martyrs and Saints.  Innumerable people will testify to the miracles in their lives that are attributed to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the sacred remains of the saints. For entire centuries, most of them have remained visibly intact, miracle-working and exuding fragrance through the Holy Spirit, as a constant reminder of the life after the Final Resurrection.  Why would God take away from His faithful such a precious gift?    

Translation by Helene

Article published in English on: 9-10-2019.

Last update: 9-10-2019.