Every major liturgical rite has a general introduction. (Mass has the GIRM, right?) The Church lays out a basic theology, provides for the rituals, remarks on ministerial needs, and in general, gives the minister everything she or he will need to fruitfully celebrate the rites.
The “GI” of the OCF (Order of Christian Funerals) covers the first forty-nine numbered sections in the ritual book. Some things we’ll look at in the days ahead are in these headings: Ministry and Participation (8-15), Ministry for the Mourners and the Deceased (16-20), Liturgical Elements (21-42), and Selection of Rites from the (OCF) (43-49). We’ll take about a month, roughly one post a day, and at the end, we’ll have a basic background on which to build a better understanding of the red-n-black, so to speak.
Numbered sections one through seven present the foundational understanding of Christian death and the liturgies that accompany it.
1. In the face of death, the Church confidently proclaims that God has created each person for eternal life and that Jesus, the Son of God, by his death and resurrection, has broken the chains of sin and death that bound humanity. Christ “achieved his task of redeeming humanity and giving perfect glory to God, principally by the paschal mystery of his blessed passion, resurrection from the dead, and glorious ascension.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 5)
If some Catholics have found Vatican II reform unhinged because of a perceived loss of a sense of sacrifice, the texts of the Church’s liturgy aren’t to blame. OCF 1 leads off with a basic connection between human death and the Paschal Mystery. This mystery is inclusive of Christ’s sacrifice, but also his rising and ascension, as SC instructs. The whole of the funeral rites are grounded not in human death, or really in a human being’s death, but in Christ’s action Good Friday through Ascension. Right away, we should realize that Triduum and Easter are at the core of the Catholic funeral rites. This important principle should guide and inform liturgical practice.
One example: while the use of violet and black are approved for funerals, do they represent the fullest meaning of this principle from Vatican II? Granted, I don’t think SC 5 mandates white. But does the entire spectrum of a parish’s funeral ministry stay rooted in the Paschal Mystery? It’s a question of the overall context of how the funeral rites are celebrated, I would say. what do you think?