“We have received Sylvia into this church. We receive her whole life too, her tears and her joys, her memories and her deeds. These we receive and we rejoice in them.”
Just before the end of this funeral ceremony as the incense is being cast around the coffin, we will say the words, “Receive her soul and present her to God the Most High.”
We have received Sylvia into this church. She has been placed before the altar. We receive her whole life too, her tears and her joys, her memories and her deeds. These we receive and we rejoice in them. We rejoice above all in the illumination that was given to her, for she had the knowledge of things unseen. She had the faith.
While she was still alive she had expressed the wish to be anointed when the time had come for her to die. This wish was granted. On Friday night, ten days ago, at about 8 in the evening she was anointed with the sacred oil and signed on the forehead with the mark of the cross. Her daughter Anne had promised her that she would be anointed and Anne has fulfilled that promise. And now we proceed to honour Sylvia with Christian ceremony.
We have sprinkled the coffin with the water in remembrance of her baptism. We have heard the readings which speak of the hope given to us in Christ Jesus. In a few moments’ time, the gifts of bread and wine will be brought up by her daughter Anne and by Anne’s nephew. Sylvia’s smiles and tears, her successes and failures, the whole variety of her life will also be presented, along with the bread and wine. We will then make the prayer of blessing, as we thank God for all he has done through Christ Jesus and for all that he has done through Sylvia. Her story tells us who we are. Her humanity reveals our humanity. Her love reveals God’s love. The deepest gift in her, the fire of love: that is the real Sylvia. All other things fall away. Love is a consuming fire and transforms all into love. Love receives love and burns away all that does not belong to love.
At the very end of the ceremony we will say those words, “Present her to God the Most High.” We indeed present her to God and say: ‘Here is Sylvia who loved you and loved her family. We present her life in all its variety, the emotion of love and the trembling of fear. Look at her and see the good that is there. Recognise her as your very self. See her as a reflection of yourself. Do not refuse her, for you cannot refuse your very self. We present her to you and we present ourselves with her. We recognise her as one of us. Accept us as you accept her. She has gone before us May she receive us when we follow the same path. Sylvia hoped for love; give her the fullness of love. This is our prayer for her and for ourselves.”
St Joseph’s Church, Black Rock, 25 September 2007,
Fr John Dupuche PP