Thursday, April 11, 2013

Compendium of the 1961 Revision of the Pontificale Romanum - Part 4.1: The Blessing of a Cemetery (1595)

When a cemetery is to be blessed, five wooden crosses are set up in it: one in the middle, taller than the others, and the other four at the four extremities of the grounds. At the foot of each cross is set a flat piece of wood, mounted on a small stake fixed in the ground; these pieces are made in such a way that they can each hold three candles which are placed on them before the ceremony. A faldstool is placed near the central cross for the blessing; the bishop wears a white cope and simple miter, and carries his crook. Before the ceremony begins, he sits on the faldstool and briefly speaks to the people on the sanctity of the cemetery.

The lighting of the candles at the foot of the first cross, in an illustration from a 1595 edition of the Pontifical. (This and the following image are used with the kind permission of the Pitts Theological Library, Candler School of Theology at Emory University.)

Three candles are now fixed and lit at the foot of each of the five crosses, following which the bishop stands before the central cross and says the following prayer.
Let us pray. Almighty God, Who art the keeper of our souls, the defense of our salvation, and the faith of believers, look with mercy upon the work of our service; so that at our entrance, this cemetery may be cleansed, blessed + , sancti + fied, and conse + crated, that the mortal bodies resting here after the course of their lives, on the great day of judgment, together with their happy souls, may merit to obtain the joys of eternal life. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.
The bishop kneels before the cross at the faldstool, and the cantors begin the Litany of the Saints. After the invocation, “That Thou may deign to grant eternal rest to all the faithful departed”, the bishop rises, and sings the following additional invocations, making the sign of the Cross over the cemetery at the places marked.
That Thou may deign to cleanse and bless + this cemetery. R. We ask Thee, hear us.
That Thou may deign to cleanse, bless + and sancti + fy this cemetery. R. We ask Thee, hear us.
That Thou may deign to cleanse, bless +, sancti + fy and conse + crate this cemetery. R. We ask Thee, hear us.
The cantors finish the Litany, after which the bishop blesses holy water with the same blessing found in the Rituale. Standing before the cross, he intones the antiphon, “Thou shalt sprinkle me, o Lord, with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow.” The choir continues it, and then sings Psalm 50 Miserere, from which it is taken, with Gloria Patri at the end, and repeats the antiphon.

Meanwhile, the bishop goes about the entire cemetery, starting to his right, and making a complete circuit, sprinkling the holy water throughout. Returning then to the cross which stands in front of the central cross, he says the following prayer.
Let us pray. God, Who art the creator of the whole world, and redeemer of the human race, and perfectly arrayest all creatures visible and invisible, we entreat Thee with humble voice and pure heart, that Thou may deign to cleanse +, bless +, and sancti + fy, this cemetery or tomb; in which the bodies of Thy servants and handmaids must rest after the passing courses of this life; and who through Thy great mercy didst grant remission of all sins to them that trust in Thee, impart Thou in abundance perpetual consolation also to the bodies of them that rest in this cemetery, and here await the trumpet of the first Archangel. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.
He incenses the cross, and then takes the three candles from the bracket at the foot of it and sets them on top, one in the middle on the upright, and one on each end of the crossbar.

The bishop incenses the cross. This illustration and those of other editions of the Clementine Pontifical show him incensing the cross with the candles already on it, although the rubric clearly states that he incenses first, and then sets the candles in place. A similar illustration is found in a pre-Clementine Pontifical printed at Venice in 1556, but an edition of 1520, also printed at Venice, shows the cross without the candles as it is incensed.

He now moves across the cemetery to the cross behind the central one, sprinkling water as he goes and saying with the assistants Psalms 6 Domine ne in furore tuo and 31 Beati quorum remissae, without Gloria Patri at the end. These are the first two of the seven Penitential Psalms; over the course of the ceremony, the bishop will recite all seven of them. Before this cross he says the following prayer.
Let us pray. Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, threefold Majesty, and one Godhead, Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, author of justice, bestower of forgiveness, giver of all good things, origin of holiness, dispenser of graces, that in Thy kindness receivest all that come to Thee: grant in Thy mercy that this cemetery, laid out to the honor of Thy name, be blessed + and sancti + fied; who for the holy Patriarch Abraham, Thy servant, didst bless the land provided for burial by the sons of Hebron; and to the people of Israel gavest the promised land to last forever; of Thy great kindness grant a place of rest to the bodies of Thy servants and handmaids that enter into this cemetery, and defense from every incursion of wicked spirits; so that after the resurrection of the reunited body and soul, they may merit to receive eternal blessedness, of Thy gift and bestowing; Who in the perfect Trinity livest and reignest, God, for ever and ever. R. Amen.
He incenses the cross and fixes the candles upon it as before, and then proceeds to the cross on the right side of the cemetery, again, sprinkling holy water as he goes, and saying the third penitential Psalm 37 Domine ne in furore tuo, without Gloria Patri at the end. Before this cross he says the following prayer.
Let us pray. Lord God, shepherd of eternal glory, light and honor of wisdom, keeper and force of prudence, health of the sick, strength of the mighty, consolation of the sorrowful, life of the just, glory of the humble; we humbly and earnestly entreat Thee, that Thou may deign to keep, purify and bless + this cemetery of Thy servants from every sort of filth, and the snares of unclean spirits, and cease not to grant to the human bodies that come into this place everlasting purity; so that all who have received the Sacrament of Baptism, and have persevered in the Catholic Faith to the end of their lives, having passed their time in this present age, have given their bodies to rest in this cemetery, as the Angelic trumpets sound, in their souls and bodies together, may receive the eternal rewards of joy in heaven. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.
He incenses the cross and fixes the candles upon it as before, and then moves across the cemetery to the cross on the left side of it, again, sprinkling holy water as he goes, and saying the fifth penitential Psalm 101 Domine exaudi, without Gloria Patri at the end. (The fourth Penitential Psalm Miserere has already been said.) Before this cross he says the following prayer.
Let us pray. Lord Jesus Christ, Who formed the human body from the earth for angelic reparation, and took it upon Thee for our redemption, Who release it into the earth in accordance with the condition of the flesh, and will raise it again from the earth for immortality: deign Thou, we ask, to conse + crate this earth for use in burial, with the blessing of Thy buried body; and grant that those who, being buried with Thee in Baptism, shall be buried here in the nature of flesh, may rest in the hope of Thy resurrection, in the mercy of Thy redemption. Who shalt come to judge the living and the dead, and the world in fire. R. Amen.
He incenses the cross and fixes the candles upon it as before, and then returns to the cross in the middle of the cemetery, again, sprinkling holy water as he goes, and saying the sixth and seventh penitential Psalms, 129 De profundis and 142 Domine exaudi, without Gloria Patri at the end. Before the central cross he says the following prayer.
Let us pray. Be present, we ask Thee, Lord God, to our service, as we visit this place in Thy name, and to the ministry of our weakness; and just as Thou didst bless land by the hands of Thy servants Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for burial in their wanderings, so do ask Thee, Lord, deign to bless + , sancti + fy, and conse + crate this cemetery, purchased (figuratively) at the price of the blood of Thy only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, for the rest of the bodies of our wandering (or ‘pilgrimage’), until through the same our Lord Jesus Christ Thou shalt grant them to rise from the dust unto glory. Who with Thee liveth and reigneth in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God.
This prayer now segues into the Preface Dialogue and the following Preface.
Truly it is fitting and just … through Christ our Lord. Who is the eternal day, the light unfailing, brightness everlasting. Who commanded His followers so to walk in the light, that they might escape from the darkness of eternal night, and happily come to the fatherland of light. Who in His assumed humanity, wept over Lazarus, by the power of His divinity restored him to life, and brought the human race, that was overwhelmed by the four-fold mass of sins, back to life. And through Him, o Lord, we humbly beseech Thee, that those who shall be buried in this tomb, on the last day, when the trumpets of the Angels shall sound, released from the bonds of sin, and restored to eternal happiness, and numbered in the companies of the Saints, may find Thee, who art eternal life, kindly and merciful, that they may praise Thee, the author of life, exulting with all the Saints.
The long conclusion is said in a low voice, as it the normal custom with these sorts of blessings. The bishop then incenses the cross and fixes the candles upon it as before. Standing before the cross, he then says with the ministers, “Let us pray. Let us kneel. Arise.” and the following final prayer.
Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, that sanctifiest all places, and remakest them for the better, from Whom and through Whom every blessing descendeth from heaven to the earth; deign Thou to bless + this place, that it may be a tomb or cemetery, a sweet rest and sleep of the dead; and may the souls of those who bodies are or shall here be buried, obtain the sweetness of Thy delight; and in the meanwhile, rejoicing and exulting in the heavenly Jerusalem, until on the great day of judgment, they receive their bodies back from the sepulchers, and so come forth to meet the Lord as He comes to judge, with the fruit of their good works. Through Our Lord.
The bishop then imparts a solemn blessing to the people, and if he wishes, prepares to say Mass; otherwise, he may have another priest say it for him. In either case, the following prayers are added to the Mass of the day, under a single conclusion.
Collect O God, by whose mercy rest the souls of the faithful departed, we ask, o Lord, send here Thy holy guardian Angel, and release the souls of all those men and women whose bodies are buried here from every bond of their sins, that in Thee they may endlessly rejoice with Thy Saints.
Secret Sanctify, o Lord, the gifts offered, and Thou who willed to be laid in the sepulcher Thyself, and deigned to grant Thy faithful the example of the resurrection, grant, we pray, forgiveness of their sins to the souls of Thy faithful who here rest in Thee, that this saving Victim may be the remedy and rest of their souls and bodies.
Post-Communion Filled by the sacred gifts, we pray, o Lord our God, that Thy people, who we believe will rise in the future from the death of the body, may merit of Thy mercy to rise from the death of the soul.

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