As we read in OCF 207, the outline of Committal precedes the rubrics and texts of OCF 216, and is set out as follows:
Prayer over the Place of Committal
Prayer over the People
We’ll take the first two items in this post. In OCF 216, one possible invitation is given:
Our brother/sister N. has gone to his/her rest in the peace of Christ. May the Lord now welcome him/her to the table of God’s children in heaven. With faith and hope in eternal life, let us assist him/her with our prayers.
Let us pray to the Lord also for ourselves. May we who mourn be reunited one day with our brother/sister; together may we meet Christ Jesus when he who is our life appears in glory.
According to the rubrics, a “similar” text may be used instead.
I’ve glossed over these many references to “these or similar words” given in the rites. I’d like to extrapolate a few thoughts on this matter. My interpretation is that all of these texts are probably too important to be improvised on the spot. The given text is sound, and should be used when nothing else has been composed. But if such texts are to be prepared “in similar words,” it is helpful to look carefully at what is included here. Then include those elements in an original composition.
In the invitation above, Christ is central to the expression. That probably should be maintained. Note also that it invites people to pray for the dead and for themselves. A significant aid would be to go to a Scripture passage and mine that text for references. Let’s take a popular funeral Gospel, John 14:1-6, and build from that text:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
If I were to rewrite that invitation above through John 14:1-6, it might sound like this:
The Lord Jesus invites us to have faith. Our brother/sister has indeed been welcomed into the Father’s house–that special place prepared for the faithful departed.
Christ affirms he is indeed the way, the truth, and the life. Keeping that foremost in our minds and hearts, we humbly ask him to show us the way through our sorrow and grief, and help us to maintain that pilgrimage which will one day reunite us with all our deceased loved ones.
My advice to presiders, ordained or lay, is to stick with the text in the book, unless you are willing to sit, pray, and compose something. Remember, liturgical adaptations are not intended for the convenience or whim of liturgical leadership. The opportunity is given when a deeper connection with God, the Scriptures, the rituals might be made for the people. And given that longer texts are to come in the prayer over the place of committal and the committal itself, no way should this text be longer than what is given. Indeed, if something shorter can do the job, that’s all the better.
OCF 217 gives four one- or two-verse Scripture passages, Matthew 25:34, John 6:39, Philippians 3:20, and Revelation 1:5-6. Others may be read. And as we read in OCF 211, one or more readings may be proclaimed at the Rite of Committal. Again, the standard of judgment to move beyond the given texts is not the desire of the minister, but the pastoral and spiritual needs of the family.