The Funeral Mass - a memorial of Christís death and resurrection

 

by

Ann Przybilla

 

November is the month during which the Church prays for the deceased. We hear from the words of St. Paul,"We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep." (2 Thess 4: 13-14, reading for All Souls Day)

 

This scripture passage points to the central Catholic belief that death is not the end for those whose life of faith was begun in the waters of baptism and strengthened at the Eucharistic table. For the Christian, the day of death begins the fulfillment of new birth begun at baptism (Catechism, #1682).It is brought to completion at the last day, the Parousia (see 1 Thess 4:16).

 

Christís death and resurrection give us hope. The Churchís liturgy offers the living a chance to worship, praise, and thank God for the gift of life which is now being returned to God. The celebration brings hope and consolation to the living as we express our faith in the Paschal mystery. While it is true that we remember and pray for our beloved deceased, the funeral Mass is a memorial of Christís death and resurrection rather than a tribute to the deceased.This becomes clear in our liturgical symbols. The coffin is covered with the white pall as a reminder of the baptismal garment. The cross reminds us of Jesusí suffering that brought the victory of the resurrection.

 

The Church offers us two ways to celebrate the funeral; a Mass or a funeral liturgy outside of Mass.Referring to a Catholic funeral as a "Mass of Resurrection forÖ"or a "Memorial Mass for Ö" can be misleading. We do not celebrate the resurrection of the deceased at the funeral, for our belief is that the resurrection of the body will come at the end of time (See the Catechism #1001).The title "Memorial Mass" is a misnomer because every Mass is a memorial of the Paschal mystery.

 

As we remember our beloved deceased this month, take to heart the words of Jesus; "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." May we always be strengthened in hope and consoled by the Paschal mystery which is celebrated at every funeral and every day in the life of the Church.

 

Ann Przybilla is Director of the Office of Worship for the Diocese of New Ulm.