I have asked Rev. Robert Pasley, CMAA Chaplain, to give a bit of an explanation of something we will be seeing at this year’s Sacred Music Colloquium, June 17-23 in Salt Lake City: the catafalque at the Requiem Mass.
Each year at the Colloquium, we offer a Requiem Mass for the
deceased members of the CMAA. Since the Motu
Proprio, “Summorum Pontificum” in 2007, we have had the option of offering
the Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Liturgy as well. This year we
will celebrate a Solemn Requiem Mass with Absolution at the Catafalque. This
practice was prescribed for All Souls Day as well as any Solemn Mass for the
dead where the body was not present. This practice could be somewhat unsettling
if one is not used to it, or doesn’t understand it.
Our faith, heavily permeated by the theology of the
Incarnation, uses things to convey spiritual realities. The highest realities,
of Divine institution, are the Sacraments. The greatest sacrament is of course the
Holy Eucharist, where the elements of bread and wine are changed into the Body
and Blood of our Lord. Sacramentals, or blessed objects, are used to dispose us
to the many graces that come from God. Finally, symbols, art, music and
architecture lift the mind and the heart to God.
The catafalque is either an empty casket or a wooden form
made to look like a casket that is covered by the black pall and surrounded by
six unbleached (orange) candles (when they are available); it is a symbolic
representation of the deceased. When it is present, the priest sings the
absolution for the deceased as if the body was present. The body was the Temple
of the Holy Spirit and must be shown the greatest respect, even
symbolically.The use of the catafalque also calls to mind the stark
reality of death and judgment, but in contrast, the hope of God’s mercy and
redemption. We offer the absolution for the dead and we pray that we will be
prepared for death. We realistically and vividly face the reality of death and
just as realistically and vividly we profess our belief in the Resurrection.
Our faith is strong?even
upon the death we know will come to all of us.
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