OCF 19: Respect for the Body of the Dead

The Scriptures teach that the human body is a temple, and as such is accorded a certain dignity and honor in liturgy. Within the bounds of culture, and an optimistic faith, the body is treated reverently.

19. Since in baptism the body was marked with the seal of the Trinity and became the temple of the Holy Spirit, Christians respect and honor the bodies of the dead and the places where they rest. Any customs associated with the preparation of the body of the deceased should always be marked with dignity and reverence and never with the despair of those who have no hope. Preparation of the body should include prayer, especially at those intimate moments reserved for family members.

I’ve always had a high regard for the professionalism of funeral directors and their staff. I think the invitation to family members to assist with preparing the body is largely a hands-off affair. But I have only a few family experiences by which to judge this. I suspect the cultural squeamishness with death contributes to the desire to leave preparation of the body to the “professionals.” Have our readers any different experiences?

For the final disposition of the body, it is the ancient Christian custom to bury or entomb the bodies of the dead; cremation is permitted, unless it is evident that cremation was chosen for anti-Christian motives.

Cremation today in the West strikes me as being utilitarian, pragmatic, and eco-friendly. The Church provided a supplement to OCF many years after the release of this document. But do we have any comments on that practice?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Order of Christian Funerals, post-conciliar liturgy documents, Rites. Bookmark the permalink.

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