Q: Father Paul, I have a question regarding the Vigil for the Deceased with the Reception of the body. Our parish has a Gathering Space that can be used for the Visitation of a Deceased person either the night before or the day of the funeral liturgy. After reviewing the Order of Christian Funerals, I didn’t realize a whole rite can take place, including sprinkling the coffin with holy water, placing the pall, the liturgy of the word, etc., at the Vigil. Many of these rites often occur at the Funeral Liturgy’s beginning. Could you please fill me in as to why this happens or doesn’t happen? I believe a more formal rite occurs when the deceased is a priest.
A: I’ve treated this in more detail in my book Light in the Darkness. The reception is meant to greet the body as it arrives at the church. If it arrives for the vigil, then these opening rites may take place then.
Of course, in our culture, people want to view the body, so covering it with the pall is not convenient. Some adaptations almost have to be made.
If the visitation is in the gathering space, you could argue that the reception of the body takes place before the funeral Mass when the body is brought into the nave.
I don’t know of anything more formal in the case of a deceased priest. The only difference is that during the funeral his coffin is arranged in the center aisle so that it faces the people as he did during the celebration of the Mass.