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Scroll down to read all kudos and reviews.

“Our customers love this book and so do we.!” – Holy Cross Bookstore, Holy Cross Orthodox Seminary, Brookline, MA

Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco

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Bishop Peter Russian Orthodox Church Abroad

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Very Reverend Father Thomas Hopko

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Father George York

Intercession of the Holy Virgin Church, Carnegie PA

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Rev. Gilbert H. Watkins

St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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This is an excellent book on the Christian tradition of burial. As a matter of fact, this is a book about the way burial has been handled by people for thousands of years and is still handled by most Christian cultures, besides United States and Canada. This is a great book to see that the American funeral industry promotes embalming mostly as a money making mechanism, and that there is no value in neither embalming, not in expensive funeral home services.  -Kalistrat Oikumena on Good Reads

Lessons From a Monastery

Learning From Those Wiser Than the World

I am so pleased that Khouria Frederica Mathews-Green interviewed Fr. Dn. Mark and Matushka Elizabeth Barna on their book, a manual for Ancient Christian burial! Finally, conversation about the sacredness of the reposed Christian body is springing up. I haven’t read the book myself, I just learned about it from this interview. But I will purchase it as soon as I can. It’s so important for us, as Orthodox Christians, to know how to prepare a body, and to know what is inappropriate treatment of Christian bodies.

Matushka Constantina did get the book and reviewed it for her blog. To read the full book review click here:

September 11, 2012

Dear Deacon Mark and Elizabeth,

My family and I and our church thank you so much for the work you have done to help us care for and bury our dead. Your book is so helpful, and your presence with us at the seminar last month was so appreciated, more than we knew at the time!

I and our Orthodox community (St. Stephen OCA and our own Holy Transfiguration) just buried my elderly bachelor uncle from Chicago last Thursday. Because of your book and because of your kind encouragement when Fr. Alexis called you, we were armed with laws from Illinois and Indiana when we met with the funeral director, but didn’t need them! The funeral director heard our wishes and helped us to have a green burial. Even the Illinois funeral home gave us no problems. We used the Illinois funeral home to have them pick up my uncle’s body from the county morgue and to fill our paperwork for the death certificate. WS an Orthodox funeral director, called me while on his vacation to direct me as to what to do (to pick up the body). Wonderful!

My husband and I received the body in Chicago, transported it in a coffin (beautiful!) made by Fr. Alexis and brought it back to our church for a vigil and Psalm reading. The next day we had the funeral and immediate burial in our graveyard right outside the church. We buried the body without the coffin, just the wrapped body. Family and friends shoveled the dirt back in. The reality of death is good to experience.

Glory to God!

With love and gratitude,

V and A L

A book review from “Sojourner, Reflections of an Eastern Orthodox Christian” at

A CHRISTIAN ENDING - A Handbook for Burial in the Ancient Christian Tradition

J. Mark and Elizabeth J. Barna
Divine Ascent Press, Manton, CA, 2011
169 pages

 “A Christian ending to our lives, painless, blameless and peaceful; and a good defense before the dread judgment seat of Christ, let us ask of the Lord.”   (Ancient Prayer)
With the development of the funeral industry, the home parlor was replaced by the professional funeral parlor. Embalming the deceased with formaldehyde became a standard practice. Modern burial frequently embraces a denial of death. As an example of this denial, we can visit large expanses of “lawns” dotted with plastic flowers. The absence of gravestones is striking. It is as though there is no such thing as death.

The authors remind us: “There are no federal laws requiring the services of a funeral director, embalming, caskets or coffins, vaults, or liners. Everything needed for a proper Christian burial can be provided by the family and the church community.”

Deacon Mark and Elizabeth are proponents of natural burial in accordance with the ancient, prayer centered, natural tradition. They believe that death is a part of life. “Death care is quite simply the extension and natural progression in completing the cycle of loving Christian care from birth to the grave.”

This two-part handbook takes the reader on a journey, initially to understand the significance of death from an ancient Christian perspective followed by practical considerations (Part Two) that address the actual preparation of the body. (See Appendix A.) They also stop to consider the process of grieving taking the reader back to the early patristic approach to loss and death. We are encouraged to grieve but to grieve as those who have hope. Some biblical treasures along with patristic wisdom (St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great, among others) are included. We are reminded that Christ himself wept over Lazarus.

Deacon Mark and Elizabeth guide us through the pre-planning of our own funerals encouraging us to prepare the appropriate documents (Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney, Last Will and Testament, Do Not Resuscitate Orders for the terminally ill.) Autopsies are usually not required unless there is a criminal investigation regarding the cause of death. A family member with a signed Post Mortem Preference Document can act in lieu of a funeral director. (See Appendix B for copies of all the necessary forms.)

As readers, we are invited into the Barna’s family experience as they care for their aging parents and pray for “a peaceful ending.”  Their emerging awareness of the typical American practice of entrusting the deceased loved ones to strangers and their desire and dedication to provide a Christian ending motivated them to search out another way. They were able to give their parents what they lovingly refer to as “our final gift”: high quality care in a family setting and a truly Christian way of dying.

Avoiding the extremes of “either/or,” the authors lead us through the intricacies of the many choices confronting us as we attempt to offer a Christian ending to our own family members, our loved ones, our parishioners. They include a Service of Prayers based on ancient Christian tradition for the period of time from death to burial, a time that they urge us to redeem.

“Grant rest eternal and blessed repose, O Lord to the soul of your newly departed servant (name), and make his (or her) memory to be eternal. “Memory Eternal” is sung three times followed by the request for forgiveness from the deceased. “Beloved brother (or sister) in Christ, forgive me if at any time I have offended you by anything I have done or left undone. May your memory be eternal.”

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