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November 24, 2014

Irrevocable Oblivion or Eternal Memory? (About the Burial or Cremation of the Dead)

Below is a response to a new legislation on cremation in Greece:

By His Eminence Metropolitan Amphilochios
of Kissamos and Selino

Finally in this country, in this place which for centuries has been watered and nourished with the spouts of blood of the martyrs and saints of our Faith and Nation, it seems that some people have set about, authoritatively, to undertake the role of "catastrophizer", by desacrilizing and dechristianizing our people.

Behold, therefore, what they thought of and legislated regarding cremation.

In accordance with Articles 48 and 49 of Law 4277/2014, "New Regulatory Plan of Athens - Attica and Other Provisions" (Government Gazette 156 / 08.01.2014, vol. I), the legislature not only does not take into account the religious beliefs of the deceased, but it entitles: "If the deceased had not expressed in life the posthumous desire for burial or cremation of the body, cremation can take place only with a declaration of his/her spouse or 'partner', after he/she has concluded a 'civil partnership', or the statement of relatives of the first or second degree."

Which means that if someone does not have the foresight while alive to be buried, the legislation entitles after their death not for only their family but also relatives up to the second degree to decide, by a simple declaration, for their incineration!

This is an absolute dominance of a utilitarian concept to the detriment of the respect of the human person and values, to the detriment of that life itself!

It is known that the model preserves the authenticity and genuineness of our existence. According to researchers, led by French anthropologist Henry de Lumley, man becomes actually "man" when acquiring a religious consciousness.

And burial of the dead is considered as a primary point in the recognition of a religious consciousness.

And this is because, as noted by Fr. Karpathios, burial differentiates rational man from the rest of living and irrational creation by highlighting the creature in parallel with religious consciousness.

It is thus clear that burying is a primary element of human consciousness, according to "the immutable unwritten laws of Heaven" (Sophocles) and not just custom.

It was not preceded by another human history to shape customary conditions. For this reason burial is without nationality.

The primary expression of burial as a model is the event of the burial of Christ, Who was not incinerated but buried (Matt. 12:14), remaining "without corruption" and by His Resurrection He "made all things new" (Rev. 21:5).

The Church, therefore, sees the body, and man, as a "member of Christ" in this life and a "temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 6:19). And when a person dies, their body becomes a relic.

This increases our reverence for it. The body does not await its destruction, but its "other form" (Mk. 16:12), its restoration to its "ancient beauty".

The deceased are not "dead" but reposed. They are placed in the grave with respect, facing east, "awaiting the resurrection of the dead".

Deceased does not mean "finished" (which has an end), but "perfected" (one who has been perfected).

Lastly it does not mean "end", but perfection, as His Eminence Metropolitan Nicholas of Mesogaia characteristically says.

The place of burial is a "memorial", it becomes a place referencing memory and life.

The bones of the deceased are a commemoration of the expiration of their life, a remembrance of their present situation, and a reminder for our future perspective.

But when the bones are burned the ashes are assimilated everywhere. Together with nuggets of social respect, every trace of their human presence is finalized and deleted. Thus existential death is subscribed to as normal.

Procrustean ethics of high technology! Civilized cannibalism! But if the violence of nature hurts us why do we choose the violence of our free-will?

I wonder: A society that cannot stand a person either in illness, or old age, or in death; a society that burns its dead, that puts an end to their memory, makes the end of man definitive and irrevocable; a society, finally, that denies the breath of eternity and is entrapped in the suffocation of the ephemeral, what relationship does such a society have with life?

It seems that the endless nursing home of our "civilized" world, the same mentality that avoids birth, that is, life, which proposes euthanasia, the same cannot stand the deceased and chooses incineration.

This marks the final end of the end, the end of the goal, the end of man.

This is because cremation leads to the incineration of human dignity. In the end, what will be left of truth?

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.