OCF 56: Keeping Watch with the Family

The Vigil is not a private moment:

56. At the vigil the Christian community keeps watch with the family in prayer to the God of mercy and finds strength in Christ’s presence. It is the first occasion among the funeral rites for the solemn reading of the word of God. In this time of loss the family and community turn to God’s word as the source of faith and hope, as light and life in the face of darkness and death. Consoled by the redeeming word of God and by the abiding presence of Christ and his Spirit, the assembly at the vigil calls upon the Father of mercy to receive the deceased into the kingdom of light and peace.

This is a key passage in the OCF. It explains that the Church intends for the presence of the Trinity to be known and experienced in this major rite before the funeral Mass. Mourners and companions call to God. A believer cannot help but do that at the time of death. But loved ones need the presence of God as surely as they need the comforting shoulder, the listening ear. The proclamation (“solemn reading”) of the Word is part of Christian belief in the presence of Christ. We might also recall from Sacrosanctum Concilium that the other aspects of Christ’s presence will also manifest at the Vigil: the assembly and the minister.

The Vigil is also the first public setting for prayers for the deceased. I’m sure that in praying a rosary, the intention is assumed. But the Vigil is important in the proclamation of the Word (readings and psalms both) as well as the intentional prayer for the deceased.

OCF 56 should be the basis for preparing and forming a parish in a more effective celebration of the funeral rites. I find that more than twenty years after the promulgation of the OCF the Vigil is still neglected and underutilized in many parishes and dioceses.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in Order of Christian Funerals, post-conciliar liturgy documents, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

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