Funeral: Parastas and/or Divine Liturgy?

More and more funerals, especially since covid, are either a Parastas Service or a Divine Liturgy.

Which one of these two services is the “normal one” for a funeral in our Ukrainian Catholic Church?

Both.  Normally, for us, a funeral takes place from the evening till the following morning.  The evening service would be the Parastas.  The Parastas is a service for the deceased which not only glorifies God and intercedes for the person who passed away, but it allows us the living people to meditate on what life and death are all about.

The various “odes” within the service speak from a variety of perspectives including the Church’s, the family and friends’, the deceased’s perspective, and even God’s perspective.  These different views of what death is about help us cope with the difficult reality that we see and experience.

After the Parastas, in our tradition the body would stay overnight in the church, ideally with someone chanting the Psalms the whole time.  Having said this the all night vigil is not commonly practiced at this time.

In the morning after the vigil (called by some the wake) the people would gather and celebrate the Divine Liturgy, where we unite ourselves with God Who is the Source of Life.  At the conclusion of the Liturgy we would then finish the prayers within the Church with a short version of the Parastas called a “Panachyda” focused on asking God to forgive and take care of the one who has passed away.

Finally following the services prayed within the Church building, the people would process to the cemetery where the priest would help burry the departed and seal the grave till the Second Coming of our Lord.

Is it okay to only have one of the two?

Two is ideal, but it is much better to have one service as compared to none. 

Which one is better?

Both are important and have a different focus.  However when I talk to a family who is only willing to do one service, I ask them about their family’s faith background.  

If they understand the Christian perspective on death well and they participate in the life of the Church, I will encourage them to do a Divine Liturgy.  In this service we participate in the Mystery of the Eucharist which is life giving. 

However if the family is not quite understanding what our faith is about, and only a few of them might be able to participate in the Eucharist, then I often recommend the Parastas which helps us come to grips with the reality of death more fully.