In the Orthodox Church, we bless graves during the Paschal (“Easter”) season, normally on Thomas Sunday. Thomas Sunday is the first Sunday after Pascha (aka “Easter”). This week, we will be blessing a couple of graves in separate cemeteries in Fargo-Moorhead. So, I thought I’d share a very brief explanation of why we do this.
In the Creed, we mention that we “look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” In Matthew’s Gospel, we learn that when Jesus died, some of the graves of the righteous outside of Jerusalem were actually opened and some came forth from their tombs. Of course, uniting all of this is the notion that when baptized, when brought into Christ’s Body, the Church, we are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection.
So, when we bless graves, we are doing several things. First and foremost, we are extending the promise of the Resurrection to all the faithful, even those whose bodies currently lie in their tombs.Â We are the Body of Christ and it is our function.Â We are to proclaim the promise of the Resurrection.Â We believe we sacramentally participate in the extension of the Resurrection to the deceased. Secondly, we are also praying and acknowledging them before God and hoping in the Christian hope, that they will be resurrected to eternal life. This is consistent with St. Paul’s desire for Onisephoros (2 Timothy 2:16-18; 4:19). We should desire that the mercy of Christ’s Resurrection be extended to every member of his household. Because we believe the Orthodox Church is Christ’s Body in the here and now, we extend that mercy to each member of the Orthodox Church.