Spiritual Guidance Order of Christian Funerals — Part I
Blessed are they who mourn; they shall be consoled.
— Matthew 5:3
This part of the journey allows the family to experience the support,
consolation and care of all who gather to share their loss.
The place and manner of each death is so unique, so variable, and
often brings a sense of bewilderment, loss and uncertainty, even
The Vigil is the first gathering of family and friends
with the faith community in the time immediately following the death
of a loved one and is the first opportunity for the mourners to
experience, within the context of the Christian community, the comfort
of God's word through reading of the scriptures and communal prayer. — Order of Christian Funerals, paragraph 56
When the visitation begins, a family wonders, Who will come?…What does this death, so keenly felt by us, mean to others
outside our family? Most families are overwhelmed by the compassion
and concern, faith and faithfulness of those who make the special
effort to gather.
Tears and smiles make the sharing of memories both bitter and sweet.
Often mourners share the unknown or forgotten parts of the deceased's
life. Good people come to truly pay respect, not only to the dead,
but also to the living. Families may show significant objects, media
presentations or picture collages that speak of their dear one.
Visitation, Wake, Vigil
Within the visitation, the formal Vigil prayer occurs. There are
many ways the family can shape and participate in this service.
Even the Vigil prayer with its order of biblical readings, prayers
and petitions, music and silence allows for a public sharing of
stories, poignant memories or personal anecdotes making individual
remembrances the property of the gathered community.
Historically the vigil took place in the home of the deceased.
The family and others kept vigil by the deathbed, prepared the body
for burial and then kept vigil through the many hours (day and night)
until the funeral. In the last century, people have chosen their
local funeral home for this service. Since the faith life of Christians
centers on the parish church, it is becoming more common for vigils
and visitations to be held there. Occasionally, the visitation takes
place in the Cemetery chapel; however, this may present problems
as it relates to the full and ideal OCF.
It is best that the Vigil takes place the night before the funeral