Funerals

Sorrow & Joy

God hates death and loves us unconditionally! He loves us so much that He sent His only Son Jesus to earth, so that all who believe in His Son might have everlasting life. In being divine and mortal Jesus experienced the very same emotions of sorrow and loneliness that we feel. Yet in His crucifixion, death and Resurrection He not only conquered death once and for all but restored and redeemed our relationship with the Father.

 

In St. John’s Gospel (Chapter 14 v1-6) Jesus said to his disciples; “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God, have faith in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not – would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? Where I am going, you know the way.”
      Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.” This is the good news of Jesus Christ, Lord and Master of Life.

 

The order of Christian funerals is divided into three groups of rites: “Vigil and related rites and prayers”, “Funeral Liturgy” and the “Rite of Committal”.

 

Funeral Vigil

 

At the Vigil, the Christian Community keeps watch with the family. Prays to the God of mercy and finds strength in Christ’s presence. The Vigil Rite gathers the faithful together to form a community of support and prepares all to listen to God’s healing words in the scriptures. The proclamation of the Word at the vigil is to proclaim the Paschal Mystery, teach remembrance of the dead. It conveys the hope of being together again in God’s kingdom and encourages the witness of Christian living.

 

Funeral Mass

 

When one of its’ members dies, the Church encourages the Celebration of the Mass. At the Funeral Mass the Church gathers to give praise and thanks to God for Christ’s victory over sin and death, to commend the deceased to God’s tender mercy and compassion and to seek strength in the proclamation and celebration of the Paschal Mystery. The Church is the place where the Christian life is born in Baptism, nourished in the Eucharist; and where the community of faith gathers to commend one of it’s deceased members to the Father.

 

The body of the deceased is decorated with symbols of new life born in Baptism. The crucifix is placed on the casket indicating that we are priceless in God’s eyes. The pall is placed on the casket indicating that on the day of Baptism we are clothed (or as St. Paul says, “we put on Christ.”) The Book of Gospels is placed on the casket indicating that we are nourished by God’s Word.

 

The community of faith, with the priest offers to the Father the sacrifice of the New Covenant and together partakes of the One Bread, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ the Risen Lord.

 

Committal

 

Following the Vigil Rite and the Funeral Mass the community of faith joins in the Rite of Final Commendation at the cemetery. Words of farewell are said expressing faith in the Risen Lord. The prayers of commendation call upon God to be merciful to the deceased. They express and affirm the belief that those who have died in Christ will share in Christ’s victory over death. Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” (John Ch. 11) They affirm in words taken from Philippians Chapter 3 vs. 20. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from there we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

A curious mourner asked how much money the wealthy decedent left; and the quick reply was. “He had to leave it all behind.” “There is no hitch on a hearse.” So what do we take with us? The answer is, all that we stored up in Spirit. We carry all or nothing in our spirit – that’s where the script of our lives is written for God to read.