Thursday, December 17, 2009

By Curtis Hatcher

The world over, funeral ceremonies are governed by various rites and rituals. Funerals give a chance to the bereaved to pray for their departed loved ones and cope with their loss.

In Christian funerals, rules of the Church govern the rituals. There are over 200 different Christian denominations and offshoots, each having their own unique funeral customs and rituals.

An important ritual of a Christian funeral, known as wake, is the first and foremost ritual that is carried out before the actual funeral and involves a nightly watch over the deceased and recital of prayers for the eternal peace of his soul. In present days, this is the time when relatives and close friends can see and pay respects to the dear departed for the last time. The body is preserved and housed either in a Church or at the residence, and the time of visit is specified. In the past, the stage following the wake used to be that of absolution, where a cross was placed on the dead person's chest and offertory, which carried the presents given by visitors, and the person was ritually absolved of the sins committed during his earthly tenure.

Next comes the main ceremony, which begins with the transportation of the deceased's body to the Church in a hearse and is followed by chanting of hymns and prayers from the Holy Bible. Then, the clergy calls upon a dear friend or family member to give a public eulogy in honour of the deceased. In some cases funeral rituals include the tolling of bells to signify the end of the ceremony. Then the casket with the deceased's body is brought to the burial site for the final set of rites, known as the burial service which is performed before the actual burial.

Finally, the funeral's end is marked by a lunch organised for the family and those present during the funeral service. The prime purpose of this custom of lunch is to share the grief of the aggrieved family and help them cope with the irreparable loss.

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