Doundoulakis Emmanuel, Cremation of the dead in the Orthodox Church, Orthodox Theology Studies, Pournaras, Thessaloniki, 2003, pp. 121.
The issue of the cremation of the dead in Orthodox Church returns with surprising regularity, in recent years, to the degree that our badly designed and hydrocephalic large cities seek burial space. It returns as a demand of self-determination and self-control of people in modern societies, in the sense of an anti-conformist stance and a psychological reaction, which demands the approval and the acceptance of the Orthodox Church. Therefore the views of the Church as well as the de-divinisation of the phenomenon appear to be surprisingly topical.
The present book, structured in sic studies, initially examines the position of the Orthodox Church in relation to the cremation of the dead, looks at cremation of bodies of martyrs and neomartyrs in sainthood texts, as well as decisions of the modern Greek Hierarchy. It looks at the concept of corporal self-determination in Orthodox tradition, the connection between cloning – euthanasia – cremation of the dead on the limits of some extreme arguments put forward by modern society and finally presents Greek theological bibliography from the twentieth century on the issue.
A small but conclusive study, without presenting issues exhaustively, offers necessary information and extensive mentions for further study and research.
Regarding the position of Orthodox theology on the matter, the author stresses its reticence over time towards this phenomenon, more so as this was connected with usual idolatric practices of the past and secular anti-traditional trends of the present. This does not mean that the issue at hand constitutes a dogma of faith, nor that there is a theoretical – theological reason to avoid it. Orthodox faith and experience does not connect expectation of the Resurrection with burial practices or conditions of death.
The demand for cremation of the dead must be considered more of a regression for the Christian world, in regards to the tradition of Christian culture. A culture that fully values matter and affirms without limit the value of the human body and the burial symbolism for the duration of life.