In addition to the funeral vigil, the OCF offers “related rites and prayers” for the period between death and the funeral liturgy. These three sections of OCF give the introduction and background on these. Sections 101 through 127 will give instructions, rubrics, and rites for gatherings at this time.
98. The section entitled “Related Rites and Prayers” contains three brief rites, “Prayers after Death,” “Gathering in the Presence of the Body,” and “Transfer of the Body to the Church or to the Place of Committal.” These rites are presented to help the minister and others pray with the family and close friends in the period soon after death. “Prayers after Death” may be used when the minister first meets with the family, ”Gathering in the Presence of the Body,” when the family first gathers together around the body of the deceased, and “”Transfer of the Body to the Church or to the Place of Committal,” when the family and friends prepare to accompany the body of the deceased in the procession to the church or to the place of committal.
Note that the Order of Christian Funerals does not adhere to a strict timetable in presenting the rites before the funeral. The principle of progressive solemnity is applied. The vigil is the most important of the Church’s liturgies before the funeral. So it was discussed first. These other liturgies are closer to the border of the direct pastoral ministry to the mourners. They may take place with friends, or it may be a single survivor.
99. These rites are signs of the concern of the Christian community for the family and close friends of the deceased. The compassionate presence of the minister and others and the familiar elements of these simple rites can have the effect of reassuring the mourners and of providing a consoling and hopeful situation in which to pray and to express their grief.
100. The circumstances for the celebration nof these rites may vary from place to place and from culture to culture. The rites as given are only models, for adaptation by the minister according to the circumstances.
So what do these paragraphs tell us?
As with RCIA, these adaptations are intended not for the comfort or convenience of the minister, but for the consolation of the mourners.
These rituals should celebrate like other similar prayers conducted in the community: dialogue between leader and people, the use of Scripture with the accompanying ritual elements, familiar introductions to familiar prayers, and music when appropriate.
I would also suggest that ministers–clergy and laity who lead these prayers–be familiar with the brief outlines for these three rituals. That is the framework on which to build, not an improvisation from beginning to end, which serves no liturgical and pastoral purpose.