Orthodox Monks Don’t Experience Rigor Mortis?

“A Monk’s Funeral: 30 hrs after death, the corpse retains its flexibility” [Athonite Moments, p. 200]
Pilgrims to Geronda Ephraim’s monasteries are taught about a “Miracle exclusive to Orthodoxy”—i.e., monks do not experience rigor mortis when they die. Typical of the other “exclusive miracles” which are taught at the monasteries, this one also has some grey areas. Depending on the monastic giving the sermon, it is either all orthodox monastics throughout the world, or just Athonite monastics. In some cases, the monastic giving the sermon will grab the book Athonite Moments and show the pilgrims a photograph of a monk being lowered into a grave with signs of flexibility and no rigor mortis.

Of course, if you question the monastic giving the sermon, they only have a cursory understanding of what rigor mortis is—which usually amounts to “all corpses are stiff after they die and any flexibility in a corpse is scientifically impossible.” What “proof” do they offer to validate their erroneous understanding of corpses, decomposition and rigor mortis?  A photograph from a book and their “authority” validates this “scientifically impossible” phenomenon.

“Black, white, red: An atmosphere of mournful quietness” [Athonite Moments, p. 201]
Similar to their erroneous claim of Persistent Frontal Suture being an “exclusive orthodox miracle,” the claim that a corpse without rigor mortis is an “exclusive orthodox miracle” is also scientifically and biologically erroneous. In both cases, “science is not needed to validate these miracles” because they are an Athonite oral tradition and “monks who speak to God know more than a worldly scientist.” Science is not always rejected by the monastics—if science validates something in orthodoxy, or if science cannot explain phenomenon which for the monastics validates a divine origin, then it is accepted. When science conflicts with orthodoxy, then it is dismissed as idle, vain, worldly knowledge that is incompatible with spiritual knowledge.

SOME OBSERVABLE AND PROVEN FACTS ABOUT RIGOR MORTIS

First of all, rigor mortis is easily “broken” by bending and moving the joints about. A common question people have for morticians is whether they need to break a corpse’s legs if the body doesn’t fit into the coffin properly. The answer is, of course, no. The legs bend quite easily even after death.

''Remember the day of death, but also the day of resurrection & judgment'' [Athonite Moments, p. 201]
”Remember the day of death, but also the day of resurrection & judgment” [Athonite Moments, p. 201]
Second of all, rigor mortis is basically a stiffening of the limbs. The joints become difficult to bend, but this does not happen with all bodies. There is a technique morticians use to get rid of it called “breaking the rigor mortise.” Basically, you bend the limbs back and forth a few times and the joints will loosen up. This “breaks” the stiffness and the body is back to normal.

The Athonite monks are aware of corpse manipulation because some of them have stated that Fr. Seraphim Rose’s corpse was manipulated by his disciples to smile, etc., to give the appearance that he had a saintly death.

http://theothersideoffunerals.blogspot.com.au/p/misconceptions-questions-collection-of.html

http://theothersideoffunerals.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/ask-undertaker.html

WHAT IS RIGOR MORTIS?

Rigor Mortis is the stiffening of the body after death because of a loss of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) from the body’s muscles. ATP is the substance that allows energy to flow to the muscles and help them work and without this the muscles become stiff and inflexible.

Rigor Mortis begins throughout the body at the same time but the body’s smaller muscles – such as those in the face, neck, arms and shoulders – are affected first and then the subsequent muscles throughout the rest of the body; those which are larger in size, are affected later.

gerontissa efpraxia

Rigor normally appears within the body around two hours after the deceased has passed away with – as we have already mentioned – the facial and upper neck and shoulder muscles first to visibly suffer from its effects. Many Scenes of Crime Officers (SOCO) have reported that upon discovering the deceased that their face might have taken on what looks to be a grimace; this is because the facial muscles have contracted as ATP drains from them.

Once the contracting of all the body’s muscles has taken place this state of Rigor – technically referred to as the Rigid Stage – normally lasts anywhere from eight to twelve hours after which time the body is completely stiff; this fixed state can last up to another eighteen hours.

Contrary to common perception the process of Rigor Mortis actually does reverse and the body returns to a flaccid state; the muscles losing their tightness in the reverse of how they gained it: i.e.: those larger muscles that contracted last will lose their stiffness first and return to their pre-Rigor condition.

http://www.exploreforensics.co.uk/rigor-mortis-and-lividity.html

 INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT RIGOR MORTIS

Rigor mortis can be used to help estimate time of death. The onset of rigor mortis may range from 10 minutes to several hours, depending on factors including temperature (rapid cooling of a body can inhibit rigor mortis, but it occurs upon thawing). Maximum stiffness is reached around 12-24 hours post mortem. Facial muscles are affected first, with the rigor then spreading to other parts of the body. The joints are stiff for 1-3 days, but after this time general tissue decay and leaking of lysosomal intracellular digestive enzymes will cause the muscles to relax.

A Funeral Procession, Filotheou Monastery, Mt. Athos
A Funeral Procession, Filotheou Monastery, Mt. Athos

During rigor mortis, another process called autolysis takes place. This is the self-digestion of the body’s cells. The walls of the cells give way, and their contents flow out. Rigor mortis ends not because the muscles relax, but because autolysis takes over. The muscles break down and become soft on their way to further decomposition.

Thus, contrary to the misconceptions disseminated by the monastics, the flexibility witnessed in some monastic corpses during their funeral—which occur 24-48+ hours after their repose—is not “a scientifically impossible miracle which scientists cannot explain.” Rather, it is a natural process that is quite common and has been observed in corpses throughout the world, both orthodox and non-orthodox, lay people and monastics. Once again, the monastics misrepresent a natural phenomenon as an “exclusive miracle to Orthodoxy.” As stated above, in Greek-American orthodox monasteries, the “secular sciences” are generally not considered a “valid” source of information when it comes to understanding or interpreting natural phenomena and processes.

MONASTIC FUNERALS

Schema Monk Constantine Cavranos
Schema Monk Constantine Cavranos

The monastic funerals here in North America are unlike those in Mount Athos: the body is not flung into a hole, but rather it is placed in a coffin and lowered into the hole. Thus, there isn’t much contact with the body before burial other than the last kiss. So witnessing such “miracles” of corpses without rigor mortis here is uncommon. Of course, if the superior tells the monastics that the body is warm and without rigor mortis, then they will believe it is so, and will also transmit this “miracle” to the pilgrims who visit.

Constantine2

Each monastery has its own process of preparing the body for burial, again giving opportunity for manipulation. The body is then placed in the middle of the Church, usually under the polyeleos, and the monastics have to read the entire Psalter continually until the next day. Then the funeral service occurs in the church ending with the procession to burial. Depending on time and circumstance, this process can take from 24-36 hours or more. Thus, photographs of monks without rigor mortis after such a time period cannot be considered a “miracle exclusive to orthodoxy” as this can happen to any corpse; i.e. the natural return to the pre-rigor condition.

Schema Monk Constantine Cavarnos' funeral procession at St. Anthony's Monastery
Schema Monk Constantine Cavarnos’ funeral procession at St. Anthony’s Monastery

15 Dead People Who Came Back To Life (1650-2014)

From people waking up at their own funeral to others trapped in a morgue freezer after getting pronounced dead, 15 cases of clinically dead people somehow rising back from the grave:

1 Val Thomas (2008)

1. Val Thomas

  • A woman from West Virginia who suffered multiple heart attacks and didn’t even register brain waves for over 17 hours
  • She had no heartbeat, no pulse and yet after all the cables had been pulled she miraculously woke up and started talking
  • She was then taken to a special clinic and checked, but she was perfectly fine

http://www.foxnews.com/story/2008/05/23/woman-wakes-after-heart-stopped-rigor-mortis-set-in/

https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/womans-waking-after-brain-death-raises-many-questions-about-organ-donation

2 Li Xiufeng (2012)

Woman Climbs Out of Coffin After Being 'Dead' for 6 Days, Liulou Village, Beiliu, Guangxi Province, China - 26 Feb 2012

  • A 95 year old woman found lying dead in her home by a neighbour – they placed her in a coffin with the tradition of waiting days before burial
  • This worked in Li’s favour though, since she climbed out of the coffin not too long after and went about her day cooking dinner as if nothing had happened
  • Unluckily though, they also burned pretty much all her possessions – this, she was not so thrilled about

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2109719/Chinese-woman-95-comes-life-climbing-coffin-days-died.html

3 Anne Green (1650)

Woodcut from A Wonder of Wonders (1651) depicting the hanging of Anne Greene.
Woodcut from A Wonder of Wonders (1651) depicting the hanging of Anne Greene.
  • Another story from long ago, 1650, about a woman convicted of murdering her bastard child and hiding the body
  • She was sentenced to death by hanging, and was even held down by a group of people to speed up the choking process, but when they cut her down and prepared to perform an autopsy, she’d somehow managed to survive
  • Her would-be murderers were so impressed that they let her live, and she did so even bearing three more children as years went by

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19190198

4 Fagilyu Mukhametzyanov (2011)

You Only Love Twice

  • A 49 year old woman from Russia who was mistakenly pronounced dead and, while she was at her own funeral surrounded by sobbing relatives, woke up
  • The shock and horror of waking up at her own funeral caused a heart attack, and once she was taken back to hospital she was declared deceased once again
  • Pretty much a bad day all around

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/24/woman-dies-at-her-own-funeral_n_883907.html

5 MaNdlo (2013)

1. MaNdlo

  • This is the story of a prostitute from Zimbabwe who, while engaging in her select field of trade with a client, she suddenly collapsed on him and died
  • He scarpered out the hotel when the cops arrived, and they sealed her up in a steel coffin, but then the prostitute woke up and shouted, “You want to kill me”
  • A bunch of gawkers were so shocked that they sprinted away as fast as they could run

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/27/dead-prostitute-comes-back-to-life_n_2965110.html

6 Erica Nigrelli (2013)

1. Erica Nigrelli

  • This is a horrifying story that ends quite happily – Erica was an English teacher from Missouri, pregnant with her child when, one day, she passed out
  • Her husband called 911 and soon she was taken to hospital – but her heart stopped and they had to deliver the baby from her corpse before it too, died
  • After the delivery, her heart began beating again and she was put into a medically-induced coma for five days
  • It turns out all she needed was a pacemaker, so now both her and her daughter are alive to this day

http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/24/health/mom-revived-baby-born/

7 Carlos Camejo (2007)

1. Carlos Camejo

  • A man from Venezuela who woke up during his own autopsy – declared dead in a highway accident in 2007, he was taken away by medical examiners before his wife could even identify the corpse
  • In the midst of his autopsy, when they were cutting into his face, they noted the absurdly high amount of fresh blood falling out, and then Carlos woke up screaming and hollering, with the surgeons falling over themselves to stitch up the wound
  • Carlos later noted “I woke up because the pain was unbearable”

http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/09/17/us-autopsy-idUSN149975820070917

8 Saudi Woman (2009)

1. saudi

  • O It was 2009 when a Caesarean gone wrong happened to a woman in labour, and she died
  • The husband was given the birth-defected baby and a dead certificate for his late wife, and her body was hauled away to the morgue
  • Two hours later though, she awoke in the freezer and started screaming and banging the door until a worker came to rescue her
  • The husband was forced to return her death certificate since, despite his hope, he couldn’t keep it as a souvenir

9 Luz Milagros Veron (2012)

1. Luz Milagros Veron

  • This baby was born three months premature, and quickly sent off to the morgue
  • Luckily though, her parents insisted they be allowed to see her one last time, and it was inside the coffin sealed for 12 hours they heard a faint cry – it was opened and there was baby Luz cold and weak but very much alive
  • Originally the babies name was to be Lucia, but they changed it because her new name means “Miracle Light”

http://www.latinospost.com/articles/22061/20130624/argentina-miracle-baby-luz-milagros-dies.htm  

10 Walter Williams (2014)

1. walter williams

  • A 78 year old man from Mississippi who was accurately described as dead by one of the nurses who looked after him in 2014
  • A coroner was informed, and he too verified that Walter was dead, but just as he was getting shoved in a body bag, it was noticed that Walter seemed to be kicking his legs, so they listened to his chest and noticed a heart beat
  • It was later theorised that his heart had been later jump-started by a defibrillator embedded in his chest

http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/28/us/dead-man-comes-back-life/

http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/13/us/mississippi-walter-williams-dead/

11 A Man from Johannesburg (2011)

1. south africa

  • It was July 2011 when an 80 year old man was hauled into a morgue and placed in one of the freezers
  • Not even 24 hours later, the morgue’s owner, Ayanda Maqolo, heard screaming coming from the fridges – he actually thought it was a ghost come to attack him, so he called police to come and handle it for him
  • The frozen man was thawed and sent to a hospital, making a full recovery – well, as recovered as you can be frozen, left for dead and then rescued by armed police officers

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/jul/25/south-african-man-wakes-morgue

12 Kelvin Santos

1. Kelvin Santos

  • A two year old child that died of pneumonia – but just before his funeral was about to begin, he sat up in the open coffin and asked “Daddy, can I have some water?”
  • Everyone present started screaming and making a fuss, and both parents thought it was a miracle, but then he laid back down and stopped breathing again
  • The family filed for medical malpractice, but they never could revive poor Kelvin

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/07/brazilian-boy-comes-back-to-life_n_1578283.html

13 Margorie McCall (18th century)

1. Marjorjie McCall

  • An old Irish story that changes details with each retelling, but believed to have been based on 18th century fact
  • It goes that a rich woman called Marjorie died from a fever, and her husband tried to take off her golden wedding ring but her finger was too swollen
  • She was hastily buried in the nearby cemetery, but some grave robbers came to unbury her and take off the ring, which they planned to cut off with her finger
  • Mid-cut, she awoke and screamed, still alive, scaring off the robbers – she then ran back to her husband all creepy, covered in dirt and blood, scaring him so much that he dropped dead on the spot – and he was then buried in her shallow grave

http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/yourplaceandmine/armagh/mccall_grave.shtml

14 Lyudmila Steblitskaya (2012)

download (9)

  • This woman has died several times, and on no less than 2 occasions she was moments from getting cut open for the autopsy before she sprung back to life
  • And one time she even spent 3 days lying in a freezing cold morgue before doctors realised she was still alive
  • In fact she was so cold that her skin had begun to peel off, and her family had organised an expensive funeral which went to waste
  • She’s had a history of heart problems and only 2 years ago she ended up dead again, only to be revived hours later

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2254595/Grandmother-dead-spending-days-morgue.html

http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/dead-russian-grandmother-comes-back-to-life-for-second-time/1052437/

15 Hamdi Hafez al-Nubi

  • A 28-year-old waiter from Egypt who suffered a heart attack while working, and promptly declared dead
  • As his death certificate was being written, the doctor noticed his body was still warm and, after checking his vital signs, realised he’d been clinging to life
  • He was then revived and his mother, who was in early mourning, fainted upon hearing he was still alive
  • The funeral was quickly turned into a celebration at the miraculous resurrection

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2143513/Hamdi-Hafez-al-Nubi-Dead-waiter-28-wakes-FUNERAL.html