Manual Christian Funerals

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The second stage is a cycle of prayers , the funeral Mass , and absolution. In the Tridentine Rite, candles are lit around the coffin, and they are allowed to burn throughout this stage. In the post-Vatican II rite there are no candles. The prayers offered are the Office of the Dead. Throughout the prayers, certain omissions are made.

For example, each psalm ends with Requiem aeternam instead of the Gloria Patri. As in the case of the Office, the Mass for the Dead Missa de Requiem is chiefly distinguished from ordinary Masses by certain omissions. Some of these may be due to the fact that this Mass was formerly regarded as supplementary to the Mass of the day.

In other cases it preserves the tradition of a more primitive age. The suppression of the Alleluia, Gloria in excelsis, and the Gloria Patri seems to point to a sense of the incongruity of joyful themes in the presence of God's searching and inscrutable judgments. During the Mass it used to be customary to distribute candles to the congregation. These were lit during the Gospel, during the latter part of the Holy Sacrifice from the Elevation to the Communion, and during the absolution which follows the Mass.

As already remarked the association of lights with Christian funerals is very ancient, and liturgists here recognize a symbolical reference to baptism whereby Christians are made the children of Light, as well as a concrete reminder of the oft repeated prayer et lux perpetua luceat eis.

In the ordinary form of the Roman Rite the Mass of Paul VI the order of choice for liturgical colors is white, or violet, or black. It is recommended that the coffin be covered by a white pall. In a Requiem Mass the priest always wears black vestments, and the pall is black. There are also slightly different ceremonies of the Mass and slightly different texts. When the deceased is a baptised child under the age of reason the priest wears white vestments as a symbol of the innocence of the deceased and the attendant belief that the child will immediately be received into heaven without the need to endure purgatory.

The liturgical books for the extraordinary form have never prescribed a particular Mass for the funeral of such children, but the custom is that the votive Mass of the Angels is said. The funeral Mass is sometimes called the "Mass of Christian Burial", "Mass of the Resurrection", or "Memorial Mass", but these terms are not found in the Order of Christian Funerals, which is the official book in the ordinary form of the Church, and should be discouraged. The absolution of the dead was removed from the ordinary form of the Roman Rite , and replaced with the Final Commendation and Farewell, when the new Order of Christian Funerals was promulgated following the Second Vatican Council.

However, the absolution of the dead remains part of the funeral service of the Tridentine Mass. The absolution of the dead is a series of prayers for pardon that are said over the body of a deceased Catholic following a Requiem Mass and before burial. The absolution of the dead does not forgive sins or confer the sacramental absolution of the Sacrament of Penance.

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Rather, it is a series of prayers to God that the person's soul will not have to suffer the temporal punishment in purgatory due for sins which were forgiven during the person's life. During the absolution, the Libera me, Domine is sung while the priest incenses the coffin and sprinkles it with holy water. The prayer for absolution is said by the priest, and then the In paradisum is sung while the body is carried from the church. After the absolution, the body is carried to the grave.

The tomb or burial plot is then blessed, if it has not been blessed previously. A grave newly dug in an already consecrated cemetery is considered blessed, and requires no further consecration. However, a mausoleum erected above ground or even a brick chamber beneath the surface is regarded as needing blessing when used for the first time. This blessing is short and consists only of a single prayer after which the body is again sprinkled with holy water and incensed. Apart from this, the service at the graveside is very brief.

In the Tridentine tradition, the priest intones the antiphon " I am the Resurrection and the Life ", after which the coffin is lowered into the grave and the Canticle Benedictus is recited or sung. Then the antiphon is repeated again, the Lord's Prayer is said silently, while the coffin is again sprinkled with holy water. Finally, after one or two brief responses, the following ancient prayer is said: [3]. Grant this mercy, O Lord, we beseech Thee, to Thy servant departed, that he may not receive in punishment the requital of his deeds who in desire did keep Thy will, and as the true faith here united him to the company of the faithful, so may Thy mercy unite him above to the choirs of angels.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord. The final petition made by the priest is "May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. In principle, there was no fee for Christian burial. According to Canon Law , any faithful could be buried by the priest for free; and this has been confirmed by several Ecumenical council during the Middle Ages, such as the Third and the Fourth Council of the Lateran. Charging money to conduct burials, bless a marriage or to celebrate any of the sacraments was considered as a crime of Simony. Nevertheless, since the beginning of the Western Christianity , but especially after the 11th century, a considerable part of the doctrine, as well as the Canon Law itself, accepted a rightful compensation for the work of the minister.

This compensation had to be based on local "laudable customs" or on a voluntary payment, [16] but many parishes turned these fees into a standard scale of charges. This attitude resulted above all from the desire to strengthen parish incomes, often very small especially in rural areas. Although many critics attacked these exactions, in all Christian countries burial fees were regularly perceived by the clergy. Moreover, in contexts where parishes hosted a vestry such as in England and France , the parishioners had to pay a certain amount to the wardens for the use of the churchyard or the church itself, when the burial took place inside it.

This contribution was often called the right "for breaking the ground". These tables registered also payments due for marriages, christenings, and, in some countries such as England, for the churching of women.

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The promulgation of tables of fees continues today in most of the Christian countries where there is an organized church. The United Methodist Church and the Methodist Church of Great Britain have funeral liturgies based on the Sarum Rite that emphasize "the paschal character of Christian death and connected the last rite with baptism". The casket should be placed before the altar ". The official name for the liturgy in the United Methodist Church is "A Service of Death and Resurrection"; it includes the elements found in a standard liturgy celebrated on the Lord's Day , [18] such as the Entrance, Opening Prayer, Old Testament Reading , Psalm, New Testament Reading, Alleluia, Gospel Reading , Sermon, Recitation of one of the ecumenical creeds , prayers of the faithful , offertory , and celebration of the Eucharist, as well as the Commendation.

The full burial service of the Eastern Orthodox Church is lengthy, and there are several features unique to the Eastern Church. There are five different funeral services, depending upon the deceased's station in life: laity, children, monks, priests, and a special form served for all of the above during Bright Week Easter week. When an Orthodox Christian is preparing for death, the priest comes to hear the final confession and give Holy Communion , if the dying one is conscious Holy Unction is not a part of Orthodox last rites.

Christian burial - Wikipedia

The priest then reads the Office at the Parting of the Soul from the Body , [23] which consists of prayers and a canon to encourage repentance, and help ease the soul's transition from earthly life to the hereafter. There is a special form of this service "For One who has Suffered Long".

Immediately after death, a unique memorial service, called the "First Pannikhida " is celebrated. After this, the body is washed and clothed for burial.

Liturgy: Order of Christian Funerals — 1997 Appendix Cremation

Traditionally, this act of love is performed by the family and friends of the deceased Acts A crown sometimes referred to as a phylactery , is placed upon the dead layman's head. A small icon of Christ , the Theotokos or the deceased's patron saint is placed in the right hand; or, alternately, a cross.

A prayer rope may be placed in his left hand. If the deceased served in the military or held some other high office, he or she may be dressed in his or her uniform. If a man had been tonsured as a Reader , he will be vested in a sticharion. If he had been ordained a Subdeacon he will be vested in his sticharion and orarion. A deceased deacon is vested in sticharion and orarion , and a censer is placed in his right hand.

A monk 's body is prepared by one of his brethren in the monastery. He will be clothed in his monastic habit and a prayer rope placed in his hands. If he was a Stavrophore or Megaloschema -monk he will be wrapped in his mandyas cloak , from which two strips will be cut. These strips are wound around the body, so that they cross over the breast, the waist and the legs, thus symbolising not only the cross , but also the swaddling bands in which Jesus was wrapped as a baby, since the death of the body is considered to be a birth for the soul into new life.

Nuns are similarly arrayed. The body of a deceased priest or bishop is prepared by the clergy, and is anointed with oil.


He is then clothed in his full Eucharistic vestments however, if he was a hieromonk he will usually be clothed in his monastic habit and be vested only in his epitrachelion [stole] and epimanikia [cuffs]. Also a Gospel Book is laid upon his breast a similar practice was found in the West in the early Spanish Ordinal.

When a bishop dies, he is vested by the clergy in his full episcopal vestments, including mitre. As each vestment is placed on him, a Protodeacon swings the censer and reads the vesting prayers, exactly as was done for him when he served the Divine Liturgy.

After the vesting the bishop is set upright in a chair and the dikirion and trikirion candlesticks used by a bishop to bless the people are placed in his hands as the clergy chant Eis polla eti, Despota! He is then placed in his coffin. In ancient times, and still in some places, the bishop is not placed in a coffin, but remains seated in a chair, and is even buried in a sitting position.

This custom was taken from the burial customs of the Byzantine Emperors. After the clothing of the deceased, the priest sprinkles the coffin with holy water on all four sides, and the deceased is placed in the coffin. Then the wake begins immediately. Often, an Orthodox casket will have a solid lid which is removable.

The lid, with a large cross on it, is often placed outside the front door of the house as a sign that the house is in mourning, and to invite all who pass by to pray for the deceased and give comfort to the bereaved. For Orthodox Christians the wake consists of continuous reading of the Psalter aloud, interrupted only by the occasional serving of Panikhidas brief memorial services. Anyone is allowed to read, and the family and friends will often take turns reading the psalms throughout the night up until it is time to take the body to the church.

If the deceased was a priest or bishop the reading is done by the higher clergy bishops, priests and deacons and instead of reading the Psalter, they read from the Gospel Book. If there are not enough clergy to read continuously, the laity may read the Psalter at times clergy are unavailable. After a final Panikhida at the house of the deceased, the body is brought to the church in a procession headed by the cross and banners.

The priest or deacon walks in front of the coffin with the censer. During the procession all sing the Trisagion. Bells may be rung during the procession, though they are not required by the rubrics. Once the procession arrives at the church, the coffin is placed either in the center of the nave or, if the narthex is large enough it is placed there. Four candlestands are placed around the coffin, forming a cross.

The priest censes around the coffin and begins a Panikhida. Then, the reading of the Psalter continues until the beginning of the services. Throughout the service, upon a table close to the coffin stands a dish containing kolyva , made of wheat—symbolic of the grain which falling to the ground dies and brings forth much fruit John —and honey—symbolic of the sweetness of the Heavenly Kingdom. A taper is placed in the kolyva and is lit during the service. In the Orthodox funeral, the coffin is usually open in church [25] unlike the West, where it is usually closed , and the lower part of the coffin is covered with a funeral pall.