OCF 133: At the Church Entrance

If reception hasn’t taken place at an earlier rite celebrated at the church …

133. The rite of reception takes place at the beginning of the funeral liturgy, usually at the entrance of the church. It begins with a greeting of the family and others who have accompanied the coffin to the door of the church. The minister sprinkles the coffin with holy water in remembrance of the deceased person’s initiation and first acceptance into the community of faith. If it is the custom in the local community, a funeral pall, a reminder of the garment given at baptism, and therefore signifying life in Christ, may then be placed on the coffin by family members, friends, or the minister. The entrance procession follows. The minister precedes the coffin and the mourners into the church. If the Easter candle is used on this occasion, it may be placed beforehand near the position the coffin will occupy at the conclusion of the procession.

Commentary:

The entrance is a fitting location. I know some clergy are concerned with visibility and conduct the reception at the front. My sense is that this loosens the connection with baptism. This alteration has the potential, if done casually, of being interpreted as more of a blessing than a demonstration of a sacramental connection.

I’ve never experienced skipping the funeral pall. This is universal in the US, isn’t it? Likewise the proximity of the Easter candle with the coffin. I can’t think of a reason why pall and candle wouldn’t be used, short of a cultural alternative.

Note that the minister will not be at the rear of the procession. Like the wedding, it is one of the few times when clergy do not have the place of first honor in the entrance procession. Does your parish do this entrance by the book, or on autopilot from Mass?

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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.

3 Responses to OCF 133: At the Church Entrance

  1. As a clarifying question, how do you see the connection of the reception to baptism being loosened when the reception occurs at the front? Is it because of the traditional placement of the baptismal font near the entrance? Or is it rather because of both rites beginning at the entrance of the church (“crossing the threshold”)?

  2. Todd says:

    Good question.

    Upon further reflection, if baptisms are conducted at the “front,” perhaps there is less loosening.

    However, the rite calls for the reception to take place at the entrance, not only for the connection to baptism, but also the “first acceptance into the community of faith.” RCIA’s Rite of Acceptance and the signing of the infant come to mind on this.

    Perhaps more of what is lost is a sense of Christianity as a pilgrimage. We focus well and appropriately on the center of the church for the Word and the Eucharist. But other aspects of the sacramental life take place just inside the margins, if you will. Our rituals should acknowledge this.

  3. Pingback: OCF 158-164: Funeral Mass, Introductory Rites « Catholic Sensibility

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