by Fr Mark Gomez | June 13, 2007

A Priest's Personal Recount of Fr Elias Wen's Funeral

I went to the funeral last night at the Cathedral and was a bit late. Heard them intone the beginning and put on the red vestments, went out and got a candle from the Archbishop. We read the Kathisma Psalm 112, then the antiphons and the 5 Epistles and 5 Gospels. The Gospels were saying, "Eat my Flesh and drink my Blood and you will have life in you and I will raise you on the last day". I thought of how many Divine Liturgies Fr. Ilia served and how many times he took the Holy Gifts, how many confessions he heard, how many baptisms he did. Looking at his coffin with the Chinese characters for long life on the ends of the Cloth liner, I thought that Fr. Ilia was full of life. I remember that he used to come to the daily Liturgies in the mornings and sing the liturgy with who ever was assigned to sing. How many prayers he did his whole life time when he was younger.

Reader Peter Wen reads the Epistle.

So it fell to me to read the 5th Gospel after Fr. Ilias oldest Son Peter read the 5th Epistle. I am recuperating from an infection in my leg, so after the Gospel I went and sat down in the Cleros for an hour and rejoined the line of clergy for the remaining hour of the funeral. When the funeral was almost over the priests took Fr. Ilia on their shoulders and carried him around the outside of the Church. I helped the back end when I could in that Fr. Sergy is shorter so I lifted that end of the very heavy coffin Especially going down the stairs. When we reentered the Church the Funeral continued and the last kiss was given by everyone. A large amount of Koliva made out of Wheat was blessed and distributed to the people by the Sisterhood.

Father Peter did take pictures of the funeral, but, since he is having surgery for a hernia today I am not sure if he had time to put them on the Cathedral web site or the Diocese web site yet.

While the last kiss was being given I went to Michael Wen and told him that on behalf of the Orthodox Fellowship of the All Saints of China I gave the whole family our Condolences. I told them that we would pray for Fr. Ilia and the Wen family, I also conveyed the blessing of the clergy of our group to them all.

The Chinese Character for long life (壽) was on the cloth liner on the outside on both ends of the coffin. Fr. Ilia is now in that life that lasts longer than that which is lived on earth. May God grant him eternal rest where the Saints repose, forgiving all of his sins both voluntary and involuntary. May the Holy Prophet Elias and all the saints that he prayed to help him make his way through the dread toll houses in the sky. May the Holy New Martyrs of the China help him avoid any trouble in the toll houses.

Fr. Ilia had told me he was baptized in the Russian Mission Church where the Martyrs died, he said the font for baptism was in the Ambo and the whole of the Ambo and Soleas was painted red to cover the blood of the Martyrs. He said that the cover of the font would be taken off for Baptisms.

I couldn't go right away I stayed out to the very end. I lifted the Aer for a split second to look on the dear face for one last time. I gave the last kiss again because I have to go to work today. It was good that they had the funeral at night so people that have to work could come to the funeral. This morning there is a Divine Liturgy, then a Panichida then they will take Fr. Ilia to the cemetery and put him into the ground to await the Resurrection when Christ come to call all of us to come forth.

At the end of the funeral I was clearing up the service books and opened one to figure out where to put it and saw a line of Chinese characters and at that moment the Archbishop was leaving and I showed it to him. We are going to have many reminders of Fr. Ilia for years to come because he wrote in almost all of the books to make notes for himself.

It is a Russian tradition that at a memorial meal they eat the things that the departed liked, so I guess there will be a lot of Chinese food. I am not sure if Fr. Ilia like the jellyfish salad that is made here so often. But, I remember he had told us about Sweet and Sour soup, so I expect that will be served today.

With love in Christ
Fr. Mark Gomez