Commemoratio Pro Defunctis

Commemoratio Pro Defunctis – English

Remember also, Lord, your servants N. and N., who have gone before us with the sign of faith and rest in the sleep of peace. Grant them, O Lord, we pray, and all who sleep in Christ, a place of refreshment, light, and peace. (Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)

Commemoratio Pro Defunctis – Latin

Memento etiam, Domine, famulorum famularumque tuarum N. et N., qui nos praecesserunt cum signo fidei, et dormiunt in somno pacis. Ipsis, Domine, et omnibus in Christo quiescentibus, locum refrigerii, lucis et pacis, ut indulgeas, deprecamur. (Per Christium Dominum nostrum. Amen.)

Commemoratio Pro Defunctis, Part 1

Remember also, Lord, your servants N. and N., who have gone before us with the sign of faith and rest in the sleep of peace. Grant them, O Lord, we pray, and all who sleep in Christ, a place of refreshment, light, and peace. (Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)

            As we begin to dive into the Commemoratio Pro Defunctis, I would like to hearken back to something I wrote early in the section on the Commemoratio Pro Vivis: It has been a long standing practice of the Church to offer the Holy Mass for the living and the dead. The one, perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ was for the redemption of all human beings, to buy us back from sin and death. Perfect and infinite, this sacrifice reached reaches far back to Adam and Eve and extends forward to the last human person who will be conceived. Because the Mass is the re-presentation of this one, perfect sacrifice, there is infinite power and grace which flows forth from it. Therefore, the priest offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on behalf of the living and the dead, and sometimes for fairly specific intentions.

            Just after the Te Igitur in the Commemoratio Pro Vivis, we are given the opportunity to pray for the living. Now, in the Commemoratio Pro Defunctis, we are invited by Mother Church to commend the dead to the care of our merciful God.

            In the Book of 2nd Maccabees, Judas Maccabeus found that his fallen soldiers were each wearing a pagan token of a false idol. Out of concern for their souls, he offered prayers for the dead so men that so their sins might be forgiven.

            Speaking of this action, Sacred Scripture says this: “In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection.  For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead.  But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought.  Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from sin (2 Mc 12:43-45; RSV-CE2).”

            Even after death, the sins of the dead needed to be cleansed. Rather, the attachment to sin needs to be purified and the temporal punishment due to sin needs to be paid, in God’s justice. Jesus redeemed us. He paid the price with His Blood, but we still have to allow His Blood to wash us clean, whether before or after death. This happens fully in Baptism, but then we are marred by sin. Instead of leaving us to eternal death, God gives us the mercy of purgation. And, what is more, the dead are affected by our actions here on earth.

            Pope Benedict XVI writes in his encyclical Spe Salvi (“Saved By Hope”):

“The souls of the departed can, however, receive “solace and refreshment” through the Eucharist, prayer and almsgiving. The belief that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible, in which our affection for one another continues beyond the limits of death—this has been a fundamental conviction of Christianity throughout the ages and it remains a source of comfort today (Spe Salvi, 47).”

            Our prayers as Christians are made by the power of the Holy Spirit, in and through Christ. Therefore, the entire Mystical Body of Christ is active in prayer: earth, heaven, and purgatory. The Pope continues: “Who would not feel the need to convey to their departed loved ones a sign of kindness, a gesture of gratitude or even a request for pardon?”

            Even after bodily death, we are still connected in Christ. This is no more truer than in the Sacred Action of the Holy Mass. Those who have gone before us are marked with the sign of faith in their Baptism, and, in the Hope of God, we pray that they rest in the sleep of peace.

Commemoratio Pro Defunctis, Part 2

Remember also, Lord, your servants N. and N., who have gone before us with the sign of faith and rest in the sleep of peace. Grant them, O Lord, we pray, and all who sleep in Christ, a place of refreshment, light, and peace. (Through Christ our Lord. Amen.)

            God did not send His Son to die for us for our condemnation. Out of superabundant and gratuitous love, our Savior Christ suffered and died so that we might live forever with Him in Heaven. This is the ultimate goal and destination of the Christian body and soul: a place of refreshment, light, and peace. Heaven is the New Jerusalem for which our souls in exile long. The Church sojourns here on earth as in a foreign land. Our final place of light, peace, and rest is with our Creator and Redeemer.

            Cosmic routing to Heaven begins in the waters of Baptism. We become truly sons or daughters of our Heavenly Father and co-heirs with Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. We become Members of Christ’s Body. The Constitution of the Church of the Second Vatican Council reminds us: “By the greatness of His power He rules the things in heaven and the things on earth, and with His all-surpassing perfection and way of acting He fills the whole body with the riches of His glory (Lumen Gentium, 7).” We partake in the riches of His glory in a mediated way here on earth, but in Heaven we will see Him as He is. As St. Paul writes to the Church in Corinth, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known (1 Cor. 13:12).”

            Just as we prayed in the Hanc Igitur that we will be delivered from eternal damnation, we seek the mercy and love of God upon those who have gone before us, marked with the sign of faith, received in Baptism. Of course, we can also commend the souls of our departed loved ones who were not baptized or who were not in regular relationship with the Catholic Church. As Pope Benedict XVI rightly taught in Spe Salvi, it is never too late, nor it is it ever in vain to pray and reach out to another.

            The march towards Heaven is fueled entirely by God’s grace with our free cooperation. God loves us and so gives us a choice, along with an abundance of mercy. If we choose Him, it is because He is drawing us to Him. If we reject Him, He allows it, though He wills always for our good, for our holiness. As St. Paul said to the Christians in Thessalonica: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification . . . (1 Thess. 4:3),” and to St. Timothy that God “. . . desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth (1 Tim. 2:4).”

            God desires all to be made holy by His grace, that all be saved, and that all come to knowledge of the truth. By ways mysterious and unknown to us, this can happen outside of the visible bounds of the Church. We must profess clearly and faithfully that if someone is saved it is through Jesus Christ and the ministry of the Church: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time (1 Tim. 2:5-6).” That being said, we have faith in the mercy and goodness of God and so we humbly pray without presumption for the salvation of all people, knowing that God desires their salvation more than we can imagine.

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