Death has a central place in Christianity.
The New Testament tells that by dying, atoned Jesus Christ for the sins of humanity throughout all time. Three days after burial, Jesus supposedly arose from the dead and traveled to heaven. Christian belief teaches that one-day in the future, Jesus shall return to earth in order to judge the living and the dead - which will complete creation by opening the kingdom of heaven.
The ritual of communion is seen as a preparation for this day. Communion refers to the last supper that Jesus had with his disciples, when he gave them bread and wine as symbols of his body and blood, and said that "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:54)
More than 95 % of all those who die in Norway are still buried using the liturgy of the Church of Norway. With a growing population of people belonging to other faiths, this will probably change with time.
When a member of the Church of Norway dies, the parish priest is informed. When someone dies without having relatives close by, the priest has the job of informing the family as soon as possible.
The burial week
The Church of Norway has no rules for how soon a burial should take place, but according to the state burial laws, the funeral should be completed within 8 days after death.
In connection with transport of the deceased from the care-institution, bier-prayers (båreandakt) may be held. Bier-prayers are normally done at the same time as viewing of the deceased in an open casket in the chapel of the hospital or nursing home. In many ways, this is a continuation of the tradition of "laying out" (å ligge på likstrå) of former times.
Christian burial, as practiced by the Church of Norway, is considered action in the service of God. Church bells are rung in the church or chapel where the ceremony is held, and songs are sung which the family of the deceased has chosen. The priest holds a memorial speech, leads prayer for the deceased and preaches to the listeners on the Christian view of the transient nature of life, the day of judgement and being prepared for death, resurrection and eternal life. The casket and surrounding space is usually sumptuously decorated with colorful wreaths and floral bouquets. The priest or family members read the messages on the wreaths and bouquets. Often will one of the family members also hold a memorial speech.
If the casket is to be buried, it is now carried out to the grave. The priest casts earth on the casket three times, saying "From dust have you come. To dust shall you return. From dust shall you be resurrected". If the deceased is to be cremated, the priest performs the casting of earth inside of the chapel before the casket is lowered into the floor.
Burial and cremation are both common among members of the Church of Norway today. Often, there are practical reasons for choosing the one or the other - for example, whether there is a crematorium in the vicinity.