To Cremate or Not To Cremate?

Many people are asking:

To cremate or not to cremate?

In today’s day and age many people are cremating the remains of their loved ones.  The reasons for this are numerous.  Reasons may include the perceived cost of embalming vs cremation, size and availability of a burial plot, and the perceived length of time possible to delay a funeral so that family from afar can arrive.

All these reasons are okay (even though some of them are true and others are only perceived that way).

At one point in time Cremation was frowned upon by the Church and society.  Many believed that by burning the body one was making a statement that denied the Resurrection of the person.  The logic behind this is that without a body, Christ at the Second Coming would be unable to resurrect the person.  Although some people believed this, in reality if we think about it, this is silly.  God can do anything.  If he can create the Universe out of nothing, He certainly can restore a person from ashes (or any other form or place).

In the Ukrainian Catholic Church, we normally celebrate a funeral with the body of the deceased present (if possible).  It is important psychologically for people to see their loved one’s reality, even though it may be difficult emotionally.  People need to recognize that death is real, they need to grieve and to say goodbye, they need sometimes the one last opportunity to seek or give forgiveness.  Without being able to see the body it can be more difficult.  Removing the connection to the body can causes a more difficult grieving process.

Many of the prayers sung in our funeral services also speak of and to the body of the deceased.  Not having a body present while we pray these profound words is a little confusing.

This does not mean that the body can not be cremated at all, but rather that it is more ideal to have the body present where the family and friends gather to pray and mourn and then, after the funeral prayers are sung, the body can be cremated.

Either way the Church would strongly recommend that the body is not carried around or left on the counter or fireplace mantle.  Not only does this make the process more difficult for us emotionally, but it also opens up the possibility for various unfortunate accidents with the remains.  It is best to respectfully lay our loved ones to rest.  Having a place where one can visit, where there is some sort of marker, a grave stone normally, allows for people to visit with their loved ones when desired/needed, but also allows us to let go and not to keep the dead among the living.