What is the purpose of a funeral

Meaning and symbolism of Be-ERD-igung

Caring for the dead and the bereaved is one of the most important tasks of every parish.

life and death

Even if death seems omnipresent in the media, people are confronted with their own mortality in a particularly intense way in the face of a dead person. Anyone standing at the death bed or grave of a person does not only consider the meaning of the life of the deceased and what future is in store for the deceased. It is always about the question of what meaning and what future your own life has. That is why the experience of the death of others is one of the existential challenges facing people.


The death of a person is not only a cause for grief for one's own relatives, it is also a social event. The death of a Christian always affects the whole community as well, according to the words of the Apostle Paul: “When one member suffers, all members suffer with it” (1 Cor 12:26). Against the social tendencies of increasing privatization, individualization and familiarization of many funerals, the Church insists that a church funeral service is not of a private nature, but a service in which the parish should be able to participate.

Dignity and respect

Because people have dignity beyond death, out of respect for the individuality of each person, the Church considers it necessary that the grave of each deceased is given his name. In memory of the death and burial of Jesus, the Church strongly recommends the burial of the corpse as the primary form. However, it does not prohibit cremation unless it is chosen for reasons that contradict the Christian belief in the resurrection.


For very different reasons, at the end of the ceremony at the grave, lowering the coffin into the grave is no longer customary in some places. One of the reasons is that the momentary pain that is felt should be avoided. As a result, however, the power of the rite for the mourning process is lost. By lowering the coffin, the reality of (spatial) separation and loss becomes clear. Therefore, the German Bishops' Conference strongly recommends lowering the coffin into the grave in the presence of the mourning community, so that the mourners are lifted up in the solidarity community of the community and not left to their own devices.


Before lowering the coffin into the grave, the priest / deacon sprinkles the coffin with holy water. He says: "God complete in you what he began in baptism." For every Christian was baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The mourners can also take part in the dispensation and commemorate the bond through baptism in the body of Christ, which death does not cancel either. Then earth is thrown into the grave. The interpreting word is used for this purpose "You have been taken from the earth and you are returning to the earth. The Lord will raise you up." spoken. It is a way of saying goodbye in a "tangible" way. To "grasp" the farewell.

Funeral feast

The so-called funeral feast is not written down in the liturgical books, but the psychologically important conclusion of the rites. It symbolizes the completion of the transition into the new social roles. The deceased becomes a corpse that is left behind in the place now assigned to him, the grave. The bereaved also receive a new status: widow / orphan, ... Their place is not the grave but the world of the living! The return to this world is expressed through the funeral feast.