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Question 280

I have a question pater m I have just come back from a funeral and I was wondering when they put the body in the earth why do they open the coffin? They dont do it in the UK. 


Answer to Question 280


This is a custom that has continued in Cyprus from the times they didnít use coffins to bury people in, but only a sheet. In Older times when people died, the church had a coffin which was used to lay the person in Church for the Funeral service. This was then carried to the grave and the person was removed from the coffin and laid in the grave covered in a sheet. The coffin was then reused for the next burial. Nowadays we buy a coffin for our departed, but it is believed by many that the person must still be buried so that the earth comes into direct contact with the departed because as they say it helps for the body to decompose quicker.


I have never buried anyone in this way as I believe it is macabre. At the graveside I do open the coffin to let those of the family who wish to say their goodbyes. I then say the necessary prayers. Before lowering the coffin I cover the face and pour oil crosswise on the body and place a shovel of earth towards the feet to oblige the custom of the body coming into contact with the earth, then cover the coffin and lower it down to the ground. People can then throw in the customary handful of earth and flowers.


At this point the people can leave, but for some reason they stay until the undertakers fill in the grave and place the flowers on top. In truth it doesnít really matter if the coffin if buried opened or closed, but itís not nice for the family to see the body of their loved one being covered with earth. I feel it is barbaric, but there are many people who insist that the coffin must stay opened and even cause arguments when it isnít. I have had my share of people telling me what is right and wrong, but most people who know me have accepted that that is how I do funerals. The Bishop has also instructed priests to perform the burial as I do, but very few have followed his instructions and persist in continuing with this archaic and unthoughtful way of burying people because that is the only way they and the people consider as the correct way.