Of what does this Final Commendation and Farewell consist?
147. The rite begins with the minister’s opening words and a few moments of silent prayer. The opening words serve as a brief explanation of the rite and as an invitation to pray in silence for the deceased. The pause for silence allows the bereaved and all present to relate their own feelings of loss and grief to the mystery of Christian hope in God’s abundant mercy and his promise of eternal life.
I’ll comment that for this silence to accomplish what it intends, it should be significant. How significant? Probably a few minutes for an intentional faith community. For the average parish, probably longer than is customary for after the readings.
Where this is customary, the body may then be sprinkled with holy water and incensed, or this may be done during or after the song of farewell. The sprinkling is a reminder that through baptism the person was marked for eternal life and the incensation signifies respect fot the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit.
You’ll recall that sometimes the body is received at the church before the funeral liturgy, perhaps for the vigil. Is it at the entrance of the church that the body has been previously sprinkled. In my experience, sprinkling with holy water at the end of a funeral is rare. (I can’t recall an instance, in fact.) My suggestion would be that sprinkling would be more appropriate if there was no sprinkling at the beginning of the funeral liturgy, and certainly permissible if it was.
The song of farewell, which should affirm hope and trust in the paschal mystery, is the climax of the rite of final commendation. It should be sung to a melody simple enough for all to sing. It may take the form of a responsory or even a hymn. When singing is not possible, invocations may be recited by the assembly.
When we examine the song of farewell, we’ll look at the texts in depth and comment significantly there. For now, I’ll highlight the liturgical value of participation. OCF 147 is not a “red” text, but it does prescribe liturgical law for funerals. The expectation is that this “simple” piece serve as the ritual highlight of final commendation and farewell. My own practice has been to utilize one setting for a parish, and rarely vary from it. Priest leadership is good here. The presider may sing part of the song, and once the pattern has been established, then attend to the incensing.
A prayer of commendation concludes the rite. In this prayer the community calls upon God’s mercy, commends the deceased into God’s hands, and affirms its belief that those who have died in Christ will share in Christ’s victory over death.
That’s a lot for an early morning! Any comments on this?