Can you tell me if the Orthodox Church allows cremation?
If the answer is no, why?
With all my thanks.
Pouvez-vous m’indiquer si l’église orthodoxe autorise la crémation ou l’incinération?
En cas de réponse négative pouvez-vous m’expliquer pourquoi pas?
Avec tous mes remerciements.
According to Byzantine Canon Law, cremation is not permitted. Sources state that the original ban arose out of consideration for the fact that within pagan and possibly gnostic circles cremation was commonly practiced. There was also the implication that through cremation the value of physical creation, and specifically the human body, was denied. [The Church has always stood squarely against dualism.]
Of course, we read in the accounts of the early martyrs that the faithful treated the martyrs’ bodies with the utmost respect as they were taken for burial—an early indication that the common Roman pagan practice was shunned by Christians.
Today there are those who would propose that the practice of cremation be explored anew, in light of the fact that the practice’s association with paganism or gnosticism is no longer a reality. Proponents of this line of thinking may also assert that cremation is a less expensive way to dispose of the body than the increasingly expensive—and often non-Christian—burial practices common in many cultures and societies, such as in the United States. However, the vast majority of Orthodox would contend that cremation for whatever reason, and regardless of its detachment from pagan thought or ritual, in every instance denies the value of the human body and of material creation in general. Hence, it is to be avoided as an option.
I have heard of a few cases in recent times where, in extreme cases and for good cause, cremation has taken place with the knowledge of the Church. In each case, however, I have heard that the actual cremation did not occur until after the funeral service at which the body of the deceased has been present. This does not represent standard practice, however, and in each instance there were extenuating circumstances which led the Church to apply the principle of economia.