|What is the reason for washing our hands after a burial?|
Father Chris, what is the reasoning behind washing your hands after attending a burial? It seems very unsanitary...
The tradition behind washing one's hands after a burial comes as a very practical one. When we bury a loved one in the ground, we place earth over their body. Thus, our hands would be dirty and would need to be washed before eating anything. Having the bowls of water and soap at the entrance to the Dacha has no other significance. Perhaps a more sanitary option would be to place a sign on the table at the entrance of the hall, reminding people to wash their hands in the bathroom prior to finding their tables.
Currently, our society tells us that we must disguise death and avoid it at all costs. Fear of death permeates everything around us. And yet, Christ destroyed the sting of death by His Death-and granted Life to the world. We need not fear death. Thus, many times instead of using earth/dirt, we place flowers on the coffin. The tradition of the Church is to lay the deceased loved one in the ground, and for everyone, beginning with the Clergy and family, to take a shovel full of earth and help to bury him/her. A remnant of this can be found when the priest proclaims, while pouring earth in the sign of the cross, "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof; the world, and those who dwell in it."
While burying the person, the faithful would gather around singing "Hristos Voskrese/Christ is Risen!" as a reminder of the saving Resurrection of our Lord-and the Hope He has given to us!