Spiritual Guidance Order of Christian Funerals — Part II
The Mass of Christian Burial
The Mass, the memorial of Christ's death and Resurrection, is the principal celebration of the Christian Funeral.
— Order of Christian Funerals, paragraph 128
This part of the journey gathers the mourners to feast fully at the Table of the Lord's holy Word and the Table of His sacred Body & Blood. The followers of Christ, even while facing the reality of death and confronted with their own mortality, proclaim their solidarity in the risen Christ.
In the Mass of Christian Burial, the community is joined together in faith, as one Body in Christ to reaffirm that life is changed-not ended. We celebrate the Banquet of Eternal Life even in the face of human death. Jesus Christ promised that those who eat His Body and drink His Blood will have life eternal and be raised up on the last day (John 6:54). Shared belief is reflected through readings, prayers, music and silence. The symbols of the Resurrection — holy water, the pall, the Easter Candle, incense and white vestments — remind the faithful that the Risen Christ is present bringing the promise of Baptism to fulfillment. It is a celebration of Christ's paschal mystery — through death to life.
Many Parts, Many Ministries, Many Moments, But One Act of Worship
The Funeral Mass includes the reception of the body, the liturgy of the Word, the liturgy of the Eucharist and the final commendation & farewell. The Funeral is a rite of the Roman Catholic Church; thus, the parish is responsible for coordinating and unifying the choices of liturgical preparation — readings, music, special actions and ministries.
The (parish) church is the place where the Christian life is begotten in baptism, nourished in the Eucharist, and where the community gathers to commend one of its deceased members to the Father. (OCF, paragraph 131) Occasionally, under unique circumstances, special permission, through the office of the Cemetery's Spiritual Director, will be granted to celebrate the Funeral Mass in a cemetery chapel.
Planning & Participation
Family members are encouraged to suggest Scripture readings and appropriate musical selections, as well as be actively involved in the various ministries — pallbearers, instrumental or vocal musicians, placers of the funeral pall on the casket, readers, gift bearers, eucharistic ministers, greeters, and servers. Another special role is filled when family members or friends offer words of remembrance after communion; this is a singular opportunity to publicly remember a loved one. Sometimes two people together, one speaking and the other supporting, can effectively witness to their love for each other and the deceased. All in all, the entire gathering expresses hope best by participating, rather than just attending, consciously, fully and actively in the worship at the Mass.