Tuesday, July 6, 2010


When I had pages inserted into my breviary, I had the Office of the Dead inserted, with all the prayers and collects in it for the various orders and occasions. I had made sure to add the collect 'Deus, qui nos patrem' , but I would never hae thought that I would be using it a few months later, rather than many many years later.

The office is one of things that comforts me. Many people don't like the Office of the Dead, because it can seem a bit dreary ('De manu usque ad vesperam confecisti me', and that whole canticle) But I don't think so. A priest once told me that the office is a prayer and a sermon. It's a prayer for the departed ("In misericodia tua Domine, Dona eis requiem"), and a sermon to us to keep guard and prepare for out death, which we cannot truly plan.("In dimidio dierum meorum vadam ad portas inferi")

The office is a dialogue. Sometimes we pray for the dead directly ("Revela vultum tuum defunctis,qui adhuc tua luce privantur.") But for most of it, it seems more that we are praying for ourselves rather than the departed.The psalms are in the first person (Miserere mei Domine, De profundis clamavi ad te")The office hymn (The Dies Irae) is in the first person ("Quaerens me sedisti lassus,redemisti crucem passus, tantus labor non sit cassus.") And many of the preces are in the first person too. ("Domum non manufactam, aeternam in caelis, nobis concede.") But this isn't so.

The souls of the departed faithful are called the Poor souls in purgatory. They are called poor because, haing left this mortal earth and completed life's journey, their time for virtue and merit toward the purification of the soul is ended. They have no means to purify themselves, they can do no good works, neither can they pray for themselves or offer the Sacrifice for themselves. They are helpless in that regard, and they rely on us on earth to do these things for them in their name. And so it is with the office.

When we pray the office of the dead, we pray both for the poor souls, and in the name of the poor souls.We approach the Father in prayer, presenting not our own intentions, but rather, in the name of the poor souls, we offer him their intentions. When we pray the office then, what we are doing then is saying to God what they wish to say say to him of themselves. They want pardon of their sins (First psalm lauds, second psalm, vespers)They wish to appear before God, and to see him and enjoy his presence eternally (Third psalm, matins, first psalm, vespers)
There are sections meant to teach and edify us, such as the short chapters at lauds and vespers, and to comfort us with the sentiment of seeing those whom we love soon, seeing them glorified and with a perfect and glorified human body, free of the diseases and sicknesses which they suffered in life, and succumbed to in death.

Which is why, besides the mass, the office of the dead is the best service I can do for my Father, and the best comfort I have for myself.

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