1. Students should know the meaning of death in a Christian context.

2.   Students should understand the Orthodox rituals surrounding death.


Possible Lesson Plan:


  1. Open with prayer.


2.   Scriptural basis: John 11:1-46.


3.   Order of the service: This service is quite brief; in the Russian tradition it is

called a panikhida.  It opens with the Trisagion prayers, the Lord’s prayer, psalms and litanies for the deceased.  The family hold candles, reminding them of the light of the resurrection.  The priest then prays for rest for the soul of the departed, exclaiming that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. There follow hymns to God and to Mary, another litany and canon. In the end all sing “Memory Eternal”.


  1. Songs of the service: “Memory Eternal”; that’s all the words! Sing it now.


  1. Discussion questions:

What is the meaning of death? Why does God allow death? How did death enter the world? Whose victory is death? How does the world around us explain death? If death is the end of everything, how would you live? How do other religions view death? In what way would say that our entire spiritual life is a preparation for death? Are you afraid of dying? Why or why not? Does God care if we die? (Remember, “Jesus wept.”) Why is death always a tragedy? Has anyone ever escaped death?  Did Mary die? How do we know we have victory over death? (the resurrection) What happens after death? What is the meaning of heaven and hell? What is the Last Judgment?

St. John of Kronstadt states: We say that our dead have “fallen asleep” or “passed away.” What does this mean? This means that for the true Christian there is no death. Death was conquered by Christ on the cross. But there is a translation, i.e, a rearrangement of his condition, i.e. his soul is in another place, in another age, in another world beyond the grave, eternal, without end, that is what is meant by “falling asleep”. It is as if it were a temporary dream after which, by the voice of the Lord and the fearful yet wonderful trumpet of the Archangel, all the dead shall live and come forth each to his place: either to the resurrection of life or to the resurrection of condemnation (John 5:29). This is what the Christian means by translation. We should be ready for this translation, for the day of the general resurrection and judgment, for this indescribable world event, recorded in the Holy Scriptures.


  1. This lesson comes near the date of the secular holiday, “Memorial Day.” Remind the students of the real meaning of this Day of Memory.

  1. Make koliva  (We’ll make this together after class.):

The day before class, take 1 pound of wheat berries and soak them in water in a large pot. Then drain them and boil for 4 hours in fresh water. Drain again and spread on a large towel; bring to class wrapped in the towel. Empty wheat berries into a mixing bowl. Have the students add:

            ½ cup confectioner’s sugar

            1 tsp cinnamon

            2 cups raisins

            1 cup chopped walnuts

Pour onto serving tray and make a small hill. Cover with thick layer of confectioner’s sugar and decorate with a candle in the center, crosses of silver candies, and a border of candied almonds.


  1. Make a wreath of red, white, and blue flowers to place at a local cemetery with an armed forces section. Travel as a class to place the wreath.


  1. Close with prayer. Have each student make a list of any deceased members of his family. Pray for these and for the soldiers who have died in the armed forces in front of your icon. Sing “Memory Eternal” together and eat the koliva.