Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why the Pall on the Casket?

A parishioner recently asked me the question: "Why do we place the pall on the casket when it enters the nave?" Here's how I responded:

We place the pall on the casket for several reasons. First, the pall symbolizes the deceased being clothed with immortality in Christ. “For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:53).

Second, by covering the casket, the pall reinforces the reality that all of us – regardless of social position, wealth, etc. – are rendered equal in death and that all Christians are equal by virtue of our baptisms into the death and resurrection of Christ. So it doesn’t matter if the body is placed in the most expensive casket or in a pine box, nobody’s going to see it during the funeral.

Related to both of these reasons is the fact that, by matching the other hangings and vestments with the color of Easter, the pall mirrors the heart of the burial liturgy by visually shifting the focus away from death and dead bodies to the resurrection. This is also the principal reason why we don’t allow for open caskets at funerals.

I welcome the insights of others in response to my parishioner's question.

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