Monday, February 22, 2010

Rite for the Day of Cremation

A funeral was held here on Friday after a particularly difficult death. Fortunately the family is surrounded by friends who are with them in the best possible way, and the funeral was packed out.

Yesterday one of the friends mentioned that the cremation would be this morning at 8 AM while we were having Morning Prayer and that some of them would attend our service to help them through it.

The Chaplain and I put our heads together and came up with the following rite: it seems unbelievable that the Church has not provided for this event, which is surely one of the most difficult days in the entire grieving process. Two of the prayers and the blessing were adapted from the New Zealand Prayer Book. And thanks to Susan (see comments) for helping us to clarify.


Rite for the Day of Cremation

This simple rite can be incorporated into Morning or Evening Prayer
on the day of cremation.

The thurible is prepared (charcoal lit) ahead of the Office.

Before the Office, all present stand before the altar. Each person is invited to put a few grains of incense into the thurible. All face the altar; the Leader holds the thurible in stillness for a time and then prays:

Lord of Creation, our sister
N's body was the altar
on which she made the sacrifice of her life.
May it rise before you today as sweet incense.

The thurible is placed on the altar until the end of the Office.

The opening of the Office as usual.

The Psalm is 27 on page 617.

The reading is taken from an adaptation of Wisdom 3:1-9. It is read without announcement or closing declaration.

But the soul of our beloved is in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch her.
In the sight of the unwise she seems to have died
her departing thought to be an affliction,
her going to be our destruction
but she is at peace.
For though in our sight she seemed to be punished,
her hope is full of immortality.
Having been tried a little, she has received great good,
because God tested her and found her worthy
of divine love;
like gold in the furnace she was tried,
like a sacrificial burnt offering she is accepted.

In the time of her visitation she will shine forth,
and will run like a spark through the stubble.
She will govern nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord will reign forever.
Those who trust in God will understand truth,
and the faithful will abide in love,
because grace and mercy are upon them,
and they are cherished as God's holy ones.

The reading is followed by five minutes of silence.

The Canticle is taken from the Kontakion.

You only are immortal, O God,
the creator and maker of mankind;
and we are mortal, formed of the earth
and to earth shall we return.
For so you did ordain
when you created me, saying,
"You are dust, and to dust you shall return."

All of us go down to dust;
yet even at the grave we make our song:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
Alleluia, allelluia, alleluia.

The Office continues with "The Lord be with you. . ." and the Lord's Prayer. The usual suffrages and other prayers are omitted and the following are said.

Lord Christ, you have taught us that our God is a consuming fire;
even now as our sister's body is being returned
to the elements from which it was formed,
so may we know that she gazes unveiled upon your face,
aflame with the fire of your love. Amen.

Merciful God,
we bring you our grief in the loss of N.
and ask for courage to bear it.
We thank you for all she has given us,
and we pray for peace of heart,
and knowledge of your mercy and love,
in Christ Jesus. Amen.

God of all that lives and dies,
we thank you that in the resurrection of Jesus
we have hope of new life and the assurance
that nothing can separate us from your love,
which unites us now with N.,
whom we mourn. Amen.

Let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God


Loving God,
be with us as we face the mystery of life and death.
Strengthen the bonds of N's friends and family
as they bear their loss.

Help them to go forth
with courage and confidence in your care and love,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Silence is kept, the members of the congregation remaining in silence or leaving as they wish.


Anonymous Susan said...

Thank you for needed, and it is beautiful.

But a couple of questions: Does the ‘preparation’ mean the charcoal was already lit? Can the thurible be placed on the altar for the duration of the rite?

5:06 pm, February 22, 2010  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Dear Susan,

Yes, the thurible is lit. Ideally it is placed on the altar.

5:13 pm, February 22, 2010  
Blogger Maggie Ross said...

Sorry, not clear, after the little opening rite, placed on the altar for the duration. Many thanks for these helpful questions!

5:14 pm, February 22, 2010  

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