Wednesday, March 08, 2006

on funerals

There seems to exist a certain tension one can observe these days between the prayers of the funeral rite and the execution of funerals themselves. In short, we pray words that acknowledge the reality of hell and judgement and the uncertainty of the fate of the deceased, while in action we typically deny these dogmatic truths.

Yes, there is a resurrection.....but the only ones whom we can say with certainty have received it are Christ, Mary, and the saints. (Beatified, maybe? Not sure.)

The big thing that overlooks this is the white vestments. As I understand things, the white vestments focus the attention on Christ, rather than the deceased. The common perception, though, I think, is that the vestments celebrate the "new life" of the deceased.....which we can't celebrate because, well, we don't know what's happened to this person! By contrast, black vestments focus entirely on the deceased - we don't know where they've gone, but we do know they're gone from us.

An article, btw, on black vestments at funerals:

References to "new life" in association with the deceased exacerbate this problem, at least in my parish. We have hymnals donated by a now-deceased member of the parish that, on the cover, have the date the donor was "born to new life".

I've started to wonder if all of our liturgical and catechetical problems couldn't be addressed by fixing the state of funeral liturgies.


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