OCF 131: Reception at the Church

Why is the reception of the body at the church so significant?

131. Since the church is the place where the community of faith assembles for worship, the rite of reception of the body at the church has great significance. The 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. The church is at once a symbol of the community and of the heavenly liturgy that the celebration of the liturgy anticipates. In the act of receiving the body, the members of the community acknowledge the deceased as one of their own, as one who was welcomed in baptism and who held a place in the assembly. Through use of the various baptismal symbols the community shows the reverence due to the body, the temple of the Spirit, and in this way prepares for the funeral liturgy in which it asks for a share in the heavenly banquet promised to the deceased and to all who have been washed in the waters of rebirth and marked with the sign of faith.

I see this working on a few important levels. Let’s be mindful of the importance of incarnation in the Christian experience: that seeking the divine in some physical manifestation is important to bridge the experience of mortality to the encounter with Jesus Christ. Celebrating the sacraments with physical substances, in an identifiable physical location, living a Christian life with one’s body: these are not chains of rubrics, but an opportunity to delve deeper into the mystery of God and salvation. This is why the physical church building is so important.

We also see explicit connections to the sacrament of baptism. Baptism affirms the unity of Christians. The inference is that not only are we united in the earthly celebration of the sacraments, but all of us are touched by mortality as well. A sobering thought, perhaps, but a comforting one too, in that eventual unity with loved ones is foreseen in the promise of the afterlife.

The body of the Christian is honored. This is not because of some strange cultic practice. The body is the means by which a human being experiences and expresses the Christian life. We honor symbols, and the body is symbolic of many sacred things.

See anything else worth a comment?

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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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