OCF 400: Christian Symbols

When the body is received at church, either at the beginning of the funeral Mass or at another liturgy, a Christian symbol may be utilized:

400. The following texts may be used during the “Reception at the Church” when placing Christian symbols on the coffin. Nos. 1 and 2 are for deceased persons who were baptized; no. 3 is for a child who died before baptism.

The list of possible objects is not large, and this is likely a good thing.

Here is the formula for placing a Book of Gospels or Bible:

In life N. cherished the Gospel of Christ.
May Christ now greet him/her with these words of eternal life:
Come, blessed of my Father!

When would this be used? Certainly for an ordained person, and probably a lay minister or an apologist. It’s a good consideration for a catechist of any sort.

For placing a cross, this is the one you hear most often:

In baptism N. received the sign of the cross.
May he/she now share in  Christ’s victory over sin and death.

And for an unbaptized child:

The cross we have brought here today was carried by the Lord Jesus in the hour of his suffering.

We place it now on [near] this coffin as a sign of our hope for N.


Lord Jesus Christ,
you loved us unto death.
Let this cross be a sign of your love for N.
and for the people you have gathered here today.

I think the alternate formularies for unbaptized children are important. We don’t whitewash a lack of sacramental history, but we do offer prayers for those in need. Note that formulas one and two address the assembly directly, and God in the third person. Number three incorporates both perspectives: an introduction addressed to the mourners, followed by a prayer to Christ as the symbol is placed.

The rite give no option “for these or similar words,” so we can conclude that the wording of this ritual is important when it is done. (Remember, it is optional.)

My only caution with this last text is that dropping on syllable gives us a fairly recent expression “loves us to death.” Unto is a semi-archaic word that renders a certain dignity to the proceedings. It needs to be clearly spoken. I suspect this prayer would not pass muster today. Indeed, a future revision of the OCF probably needs to alter it.

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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.

2 Responses to OCF 400: Christian Symbols

  1. FrMichael says:

    Huh, never heard of these phrases at all, much less use them! Just another reminded why I read these posts…

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