1. Burial practices are usually assoc. with conceptions of life, nature of soul, death, and hereafter. But customs are often preserved when beliefs and practices change. Fear, love, and awe are attitudes of the living toward the dead and determine burial practices.
2. In OT the body was often buried in cave, shaft, ground, etc. (e.g., Gn. 23:19; 25:9; 35:19). Even criminals and enemies were not denied burial (Jos 8:29; 10:26, 27; 2 Sm 21:1214). Cremation* was obnoxious (Am 2:1) and usually reserved for executed criminals (Jos 7:25; Lv 20:14; 21:9). The corpse was usually placed on a bier (2 Sm 3:31; Lk 7:1214). In NT bodies were washed (Acts 9:37), anointed (Mk 16:1), wrapped in linen (Mt 27:59), hands, feet, and head wrapped in cloth (Jn 11:44). Graves were regarded as unclean.
3. Christians early showed care for the dead. The church became responsible for the burial of its mems. Candles, incense, and psalms expressed joyful hope of resurrection. Corpses often were dressed in white or in official garments. Prayers for the dead* and eucharists in their honor occurred at an early date. According to Augustine, proper burial expressed faith in the resurrection. It is more a comfort to the living than a service to the dead (De civitate Dei, I, xi, xiii).
4. By the late Middle Ages customs that are still in the Roman rite had become fixed. The Office of the Dead came to consist of the Placebo* (Vespers), the Dirige, or Dirge* (Matins), and the Requiem* Massachusetts. The early note of joy had also changed to sadness (liturgical color: black).
In the E Orthodox Ch. the corpse is carried from the house to the ch. with the singing of Psalms followed by relatives and friends bidding Godspeed. After the funeral troparia (hymns) the body is buried, the priest throwing earth on the coffin and praying for the eternal memory of the dead.
Luther opposed the Office of the Dead, masses for the dead, vigils, formal mourning, and related customs. He emphasized comfort, forgiveness of sins, rest, sleep, life, and resurrection (WA 35, 478479). He held that it is the duty of the ch. to provide Christian burial for its mems. (WA 44, 203). The marks of Luth. burial: proclamation of hope that the departed will be raised to eternal life; manifestation of love; reminder of death and preparation for it. Ringing the bell, accompanying the body from house to ch., interment with prayer and songs were preserved. The Luth. and Angl. committal services are very similar. A divine service with sermon often took the place of the Office of the Dead.
In Am. Protestantism the sermon (often eulogy) is a prominent feature of burial. EL
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission
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The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod
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