Below, please find a selection of readings appropriate for funerals, as well as meditations comforting in a time of bereavement.
Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord,
and our hearts are restless
till they find their rest
The souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God,
no torment shall ever touch them.
In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die,
their going looked like a disaster,
their leaving us, like annihilation;
but they are at peace.
If they experienced punishment as men see it, their hope was rich with immortality;
slight was their affliction, great will their blessings be.
God has put them to the test
and proved them to be worthy with him;
he has tested them like gold in a furnace, and accepted them as a holocaust.
When the time comes for his visitation they will shine out;
as sparks run through the stubble, so will they.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial,
for when he has stood the test he will receive
the crown of life, which God has promised
to those who love Him.
He abideth patiently
He forgiveth easily
He understandeth mercifully
He forgetteth utterly
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no human heart conceived the welcome God has prepared for those who love Him.
Oh Lord, Thou gavest her to us to be our joy, and Thou hast taken her away from us. We give her back to Thee without a murmur; but our hearts are wrung with grief.
Prayer of Bede Jarrett OP
We seem to give them back to Thee, O God, who gavest them first to us. Yet as Thou didst not lose them in giving, so do we not lose them by their return. Not as the world giveth, givest Thou, O Lover of souls. What Thou givest, Thou takest not away, for what is Thine is ours also if we are Thine. And life is eternal and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon, and a horizon is nothing, save the limit of our sight. Lift us up, strong Son of God, that we may see further; cleanse our eyes that we may see more clearly; draw us closer to Thyself that we may know ourselves to be nearer to our loved ones who are with Thee. And while Thou dost prepare a place for us, prepare us also for that happy place, that where Thou are we may be also for evermore.
Attributed to Bede Jarrett OP, 1881-1934
JESUS, on Whom beneath this veil I gaze,
Grant me the gift I thirst for all my days,
That I may come Thy face unveiled to see,
And blessed vision of Thy majesty.
St. Thomas Aquinas
Tu, dux ad astra, et semita
sis meta nostris cordibus;
sis lacrimarum gaudium,
sis dulce vitae praemium.
Our guide, our way to heavenly rest,
Be Thou the aim of every breast;
Be Thou the soother of our tears,
Our sweet reward above the spheres.
Salutis Humanae – St Ambrose
Blessed is the man who lives, for all his wealth, unreproved, who has no greed for gold (and puts no trust in his store of riches)! Shew us such a man, and we will be loud in his praise; here is praise; here is a life to wonder at. A man so tested and found perfect wins eternal honour; he kept clear of sin, when sinful ways were easy, did no wrong, when wrong lay in his power. His treasure is safely preserved in the Lord’s keeping and wherever faithful men are met, his alms-deeds will be remembered.
Ecclesiasticus – Chapter 31, Verses 8-11
(The Epistle from the Mass of the feast of St Edward the Confessor, King of England, October 13th)
Death is not the extinguishing of the light, but the putting out of the lamp because the dawn has come.
Holy Sonnet X
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy’or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
John Donne, 1572-1631
If anything hap to me that you would be loth, pray to God for me but trouble not yourself: as I shall full heartily pray for us all, that we may meet together once in heaven where we shall make merry for ever, and never have trouble after.
I trust that we shall, once in heaven, see each other full merrily, where we shall be sure to live and love together, in joyful bliss eternally.
St. Thomas More
From The Desert, 1908
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light, that I may tread safely into the unknown!”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So, I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night
And He led me toward the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.
So, heart, be still!
What need our little life,
Our human life, to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low
God hideth His intention.
Minnie Louise Haskins, 1875-1957
Those whom we love and lose are no longer where they were before.
They are now wherever we are.
St. John Chrysostom
Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark-green fields; on – on – and out of sight.Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears; and horror
Drifted away… O, but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.
Siegfried Sassoon, 1886-1967
Those who die in grace go no further from us than God, and God is very near.
Crossing the Bar
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1809-1892
As the sufferings of Christ abound in us: so also by Christ doth our comfort abound.
2 Cor. 1.5
The Unknown Shore
Sometime at eve, when the tide is low,
I shall slip my moorings and sail away,
With no response to a friendly hail,
In the silent hush of the twilight pale,
When the night stoops down to embrace the day
And the voices call in the water’s flow.
Sometime at eve, when the tide is low,
I shall slip my moorings and sail away
Through purple shadows
That darkly trail o’er the ebbing tide
And the Unknown Sea,
And a ripple of waters to tell the tale
Of a lonely voyager, sailing away
To mystic isles, where at anchor lay
The craft of those who had sailed before
O’er the Unknown Sea to the Unknown Shore.
A few who have watched me sail away
Will miss my craft from the busy bay;
Some friendly barques were anchored near,
Some loving souls my heart held dear
In silent sorrow will drop a tear;
But I shall have peacefully furled my sail
In mooring sheltered from the storm and gale
And greeted friends who had sailed before
O’er the Unknown Sea to the Unknown Shore.
From The Canterville Ghost, Chapter 5
“Poor, poor Ghost,” she murmured; “have you no place where you can sleep?”
“Far away beyond the pine-woods,” he answered, in a low, dreamy voice, “there is a little garden. There the grass grows long and deep, there are the great white stars of the hemlock flower, there the nightingale sings all night long. All night long he sings, and the cold crystal moon looks down, and the yew-tree spreads out its giant arms over the sleepers.”
Virginia’s eyes grew dim with tears, and she hid her face in her hands.
“You mean the Garden of Death,” she whispered.
“Yes, death. Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace. You can help me. You can open for me the portals of death’s house, for love is always with you, and love is stronger than death is.”
Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900
Let nothing trouble thee,
Let nothing affright thee.
All things are passing;
only God is changeless.
Patience gains all things.
Who hath God, wanteth nothing:
God alone sufficeth.
St Teresa of Avila’s bookmark
Death is nothing at all
Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.
All is well.
Nothing is past; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before only better, infinitely happier and forever we will all be together again.
Once, in a little pond, in the muddy water under the lily pads, there lived a little water beetle in a community of water beetles. They lived a simple comfortable life in the pond with few disturbances and interruptions. Once in a while, sadness would come to the community when one of their fellow beetles would climb the stem of a lily pad and would never be seen again. They knew when this happened; their friend was dead, gone forever.
Then, one day, one little water beetle felt an irresistible urge to climb the stem. However, he was determined that he would not leave forever. He would come back and tell his friends what he had found at the top. When he reached the top and climbed out of the water onto the surface of the lily pad, he was so tired, and the sun felt so warm, that he decided he must take a nap. As he slept, his body changed and when he woke up, he had turned into a beautiful blue-tailed dragonfly with broad wings and a slender body designed for flying.
So, fly he did! And, as he soared, he saw the beauty of a whole new world and a far superior way of life to what he had ever known existed. Then he remembered his beetle friends and how they were thinking by now he was dead. He wanted to go back and tell them, and explain to them that he was more alive now than he had ever been before. His life had been fulfilled, rather than ended. But, his new body would not go down into the water. He could not get back to tell his friends the good news. Then he understood that their time would come, when they, too, would know what he now knew. So he raised his wings and flew off into his joyous new life!
The Idylls of the King: The Passing of Arthur, 1885
[The dying King Arthur comforts Sir Bedivere]
“The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.
Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me?
I have lived my life, and that which I have done
May He within himself make pure! but thou,
If thou shouldst never see my face again,
Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer
Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice
Rise like a fountain for me night and day.
…For so the whole round earth is every way
Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.”
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1809-1892
According to the multitude of my sorrows in my heart, Thy comforts have given joy to my soul.
Ps. 93. v. 19
Selected verses from Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats, 1821
To that high Capital, where kingly Death
Keeps his pale court in beauty and decay,
He came; and bought, with price of purest breath,
A grave among the eternal.
And one with trembling hands clasps his cold head,
And fans him with her moonlight wings, and cries,
“Our love, our hope, our sorrow, is not dead;
See, on the silken fringe of his faint eyes,
Like dew upon a sleeping flower, there lies
A tear some Dream has loosen’d from his brain.”
Lost Angel of a ruin’d Paradise!
She knew not ’twas her own; as with no stain
She faded, like a cloud which had outwept its rain.
Alas! that all we lov’d of him should be,
But for our grief, as if it had not been,
And grief itself be mortal! Woe is me!
Whence are we, and why are we? of what scene
The actors or spectators? Great and mean
Meet mass’d in death, who lends what life must borrow.
As long as skies are blue, and fields are green,
Evening must usher night, night urge the morrow,
Month follow month with woe, and year wake year to sorrow.
What softer voice is hush’d over the dead?
…If it be He, who, gentlest of the wise,
Taught, sooth’d, lov’d, honour’d the departed one,
Let me not vex, with inharmonious sighs,
The silence of that heart’s accepted sacrifice.
Nor let us weep that our delight is fled
Far from these carrion kites that scream below;
He wakes or sleeps with the enduring dead;
Thou canst not soar where he is sitting now.
Dust to the dust! but the pure spirit shall flow
Back to the burning fountain whence it came,
A portion of the Eternal, which must glow
Through time and change, unquenchably the same…
Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep,
He hath awaken’d from the dream of life;
‘Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep
With phantoms an unprofitable strife,
And in mad trance, strike with our spirit’s knife
Invulnerable nothings. We decay
Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief
Convulse us and consume us day by day,
And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.
He has outsoar’d the shadow of our night;
Envy and calumny and hate and pain,
And that unrest which men miscall delight,
Can touch him not and torture not again;
From the contagion of the world’s slow stain
He is secure, and now can never mourn
A heart grown cold, a head grown gray in vain;
Nor, when the spirit’s self has ceas’d to burn,
With sparkless ashes load an unlamented urn.
He is made one with Nature: there is heard
His voice in all her music, from the moan
Of thunder, to the song of night’s sweet bird;
He is a presence to be felt and known
In darkness and in light, from herb and stone,
Spreading itself where’er that Power may move
Which has withdrawn his being to its own;
Which wields the world with never-wearied love,
Sustains it from beneath, and kindles it above.
…From the world’s bitter wind
Seek shelter in the shadow of the tomb.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792–1822