Funeral Lectionary: Psalm 148

In the Order of Christian Funerals, there is a chapter, the 13th, dedicated to all the readings for funerals for adults. Following this is a brief chapter, the 14th, giving readings for “Funerals for Baptized Children.” The Scripture passages are mostly the same from the previous chapter. Shortened, though–which is an interesting choice. I suppose if many children attended a funeral for one of their peers, it would make sense for readings more comprehensible to younger persons. But the same might be said for the funeral of a teacher or mentor.

Anyway, one of two unique passages is this hymn of praise from the Psalter, the 148th. It has two possible antiphons:

Let all praise the name of the Lord.
or
Alleluia

And some verses arranged in four stanzas.

Praise the Lord from the heavens,
praise him in the heights.
Praise him, all his angels,
praise him, all his host.

All earth’s kings and peoples,
earth’s princes and rulers;
young men and maidens,
old men together with children.

Let them praise the name of the Lord
for he alone is exalted.
The splendor of his name
reaches beyond heaven and earth.

He exalts the strength of his people.
He is the praise of his saints,
of the (children) of Israel,
of the people to whom he comes close.

Psalm 148 is one option for the Christian wedding. I’m thinking this text is more suitable for the sacrament than for the funeral. Why would this psalm have been suggested for a child’s funeral? Is it just the reference in stanza 2?

The death of a child is nearly always a tragedy. To praise God at such a time would take steel not in my makeup. And likely, not in the substance of many others. Does the reference to heaven make up for this? Perhaps, a little. The entire psalm is inclusive of both human persons and inanimate objects that make up God’s creation. Does that help a psalm like this get swallowed more easily? Perhaps.

That last stanza referring to God exalting the strength of his people: at the time of a girl’s or boy’s death, no question: we need that strength.

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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.
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One Response to Funeral Lectionary: Psalm 148

  1. Liam says:

    Well, before the funeral rites were reformed, there were no Requiem Mass for baptised “infants” (Latin speak for children who had not attained the age of reason). The burial office for such children was often set to the votive “Mass of the Angels”. Vestments were white, and they were treated as uncanonized saints, after a fashion. This Psalm was part of the burial office for such children.

    A quote from the old Roman Ritual: “The spirit of Christian faith, confidence, and joy in the face of death is immediately apparent in the burial rite of infants who have died in the state of baptismal innocence. At their passing the ritual directs that the church bells should not be tolled, but should be rung in festive tone. Around their bodies are placed flowers or fragrant herbs or greens, in token of integrity and virginal purity. The psalms chosen for the rite are delightful songs of praise and thanksgiving, and the prayers speak only of the happiness and bliss which fall to their lot among the saints and the elect in the celestial kingdom. Provided the newborn babe or child of tender age and sinless life has received the purifying waters of baptism, it has accomplished the purpose for which it came into being–to be added to the number of God’s adorers in heaven–and when its Maker calls home the soul, there can be only rejoicing over the fact that its eternal goal has been reached. Yet besides the glory of innocence there is the glory of combat, the glory of those who have borne the heat and the burden of living; albeit they have not emerged from the battle of life free from the wounds of sin. God, who is the lover and the rewarder of innocence, is at the same time the most merciful pardoner of guilt. He is the kind Father, desiring that none who believes and trusts in Him should perish.”

    CHAPTER IV: RITE FOR BURIAL OF CHILDREN

    1. First of all let it be the concern of pastors that, in compliance with ancient and praiseworthy ecclesiastical custom, the bodies of little children are not interred in that part of the cemetery which is used for the general public. Rather, as far as possible, they should have their own special and separate plot, where none but baptized infants and children who die before attaining the use of reason should be buried.

    2. At funerals of children the church bells, if rung, ought not to be tolled but rather rung out in festive tones.

    {The rite given here for the burial of a child is not to be regarded as a prayer of petition of the Church for the soul of the child. Rather, it is to be seen as a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God for having taken the child to the glory and happiness of everlasting life. Viewed in this light Catholic parents will desire that a child of theirs be laid to rest with these beautiful prayers and ceremonies, in full accord with the mind of the Church. In this very act of giving glory to God they will find resignation to His will, and with it peace and consolation for themselves.}”

    Et cet.

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