What is the Coptic Orthodox church view concerning cremation?
The cremation of departed Christians would deprive us of such a saving and consoling manifestation of God's mercy. To burn the bodies of the dead repudiates them as holy relics.
- God intended for dead bodies to be buried:
The cremation of the bodies of the dead is contradictory to that which was established in the Christian Church from the very beginning. The burial of the dead is based on Holy Scripture, according to the belief that burial of the dead is a fulfillment of the judgment passed by God onto Adam: "Earth thou art, and unto earth thou shalt return" (Genesis 3:19).
The practice of cremation is not new and has occurred in pagan cultures and among Buddhists and Hindues. These religions, especially Buddhism, teach disdain for the body, which is a kind of prison for the soul and that the bodies should be burnt to release the soul which is wrong as they desire to be reincarnated into a better one.
In the Old Testament, God blessed Tobit for his good work in burying the dead. To Israel and the surrounding tribes and nations, it was considered a terrible misfortune for someone to be denied burial, and one of the worst punishments to sinners as the prophets had foretold, (1 Kings 13:22; Jeremiah 16:6; Jeremiah 22:19). The Israelites took great care, whilst living to prepare and have things ready for their burial. The sons of the dead person had the obligation of properly burying their parents. It was a sign of respect, which was obligatory to the army, at a time of war, and to every faithful Israelite.
In the New Testament Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus risked ridicule and even death to give burial to the Body of Our Lord; while Christians have always regarded the burial even of strangers, foreigners and unbelievers as similar to the good works of feeding the hungry and clothing for the naked.
- Resurrection of the bodies:
Christianity, teaches that the human body will rise at the Second Coming of the Lord, and will attain, together with the soul, the blessedness of the Heavenly Kingdom or to the suffering because of rejection by God. Therefore we must respect the body even after death. Burying the body and not burning it shows respect. Burial expresses our faith that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and that we live in the hope of Resurrection from the dead, of the bodies together with the souls, according to the image of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who was buried (not cremated). The honor accorded by Christians to the bodily temple springs from the truth that man is the crown of God's creation. On the body of each man without exception lies the imprint of the image and likeness of God. In the divine incarnation, that is, in the coming of the Son of God, Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus, our body was sanctified in a special way.
Body burial and its hope for resurrection is more inline with the image given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ, who likens burial with the planting of seed which later blossoms into a living plant.
- Relics of the Saints:
Another very important matter from a Christian point of view is that with burial we have kept the relics of many Saints, many of whom, being full of Grace, can perform miracles of healing for example. We read in the Old Testament that the bones of Elisha the prophet raised a dead man "So it was, as they were burying a man, that suddenly they spied a band of raiders; and they put the man in the tomb of Elisha; and when the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet." (2 Kings 13:21)
We should not forget that the incorruption of the remains of many saints testifies to God's particular good will toward these righteous ones and their bodies. These Saints, through spiritual struggles of good deeds returned their very bodies to the original goodness, and as a result the Lord gives their remains (termed Holy Relics) incorruption and miraculous grace-filled powers.