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Assyrian Mourning Customs

Posted: Monday, June 07, 2010 at 02:30 PM CT

Burial of the Departed

When a man dies, first the priest will be called, then the godparents, then all the neighbors come to condole and to help.

The departed before he is enshrouded must be bathed. In the case of a deacon or priest clerics do this. When the body is shrouded it will be placed on a bier and carried by four men to the church while the priests and deacons follow, chanting. One chant begins, “By the separation of one of our members.” Another: “Blessed be the Christ, our Redeemer, Who at the last time come and raise the buried to life.” Another: “Lord of the disciples, Life of all the world. In Thy hope they died: in Thy mercy absolve them.”

The grave has been made ready and the service and burial will be concluded there, and afterwards all return to the house of the departed and will eat and go to their houses. The second day there will be a celebration for the departed, and his relations will distribute food to the poor before the door of the church. For three days the neighbors come to the house of mourning to condole, and on the third day the priest goes at four in the morning to the grave before celebrating Qurbana, with some of the women who are most nearly related to the departed, and will say some short prayers and will cense the grave. This resembles the visit of the women to our Lord's grave.

Every man will place a light on the grave of those dear to him, on the Easter Vigil, as we have said. It is most likely in allusion to this that at that period our greeting to one another is the words, “Light to your departed,” though indeed, our regular greeting to a mourner is as follows, “God give you comfort, and to your departed rest and light with Him.”

In some districts — as in Tkhoma for instance — food is also placed on the graves, and in this valley the graves are often made with a little niche in the side of them, both for this purpose and for the putting of the light. This custom, however, has been dying out of late years. The day on which this was usually done was the Friday before Lent, which as stated above, is our “All Soul's Day.”

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