Many human instincts rebel against death. Even in our “enlightened” age, we deny it, avoid it, and put it off as much as possible. Innocent aspirations like feeling alive are subjugated under impulses to prolong life, to worship youth and beauty, and hide the inevitability of death until we have to face it alone.
15. Here too, we see the particular importance of the moment of death. The Church has always experienced this dramatic passage in the light of Christ’s resurrection, which opened the way to the certainty of the life to come. We have a great challenge to face, especially in contemporary culture, which often tends to trivialize death to the point of treating it as an illusion or hiding it from sight. Yet death must be faced and prepared for as a painful and inescapable passage, yet one charged with immense meaning, for it is the ultimate act of love towards those we leave behind and towards God whom we go forth to meet. In all religions, the moment of death, like that of birth, is accompanied by a religious presence. As Christians, we celebrate the funeral liturgy as a hope-filled prayer for the soul of the deceased and for the consolation of those who suffer the loss of a loved one.
A note for liturgists, especially preachers:
I am convinced that our faith-filled pastoral activity should lead to a direct experience of how the liturgical signs and our prayers are an expression of the Lord’s mercy. It is the Lord himself who offers words of hope, since nothing and no one can ever separate us from his love (cf. Rom 8:35). The priest’s sharing in this moment is an important form of pastoral care, for it represents the closeness of the Christian community at a moment of weakness, solitude, uncertainty and grief.
Pope Francis doesn’t mention it explicitly, but music does help in the expression of “signs” and “prayers” in the liturgy. For music directors, do we move from cultural influences that emphasize denial, avoidance, and sentimentality in favor of a twofold approach suggested here:
- Expressing God’s mercy to people
- Acknowledging our “weakness, solitude, uncertainty and grief“