The Office of the Dead: Take the Bitter Pill and Be Healed

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Tom's Digest

Defunctorum“In all thy works remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.” (Ecclesiasticus 7:40)

“Watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41)

“[A] fourth type [of watchfulness] is always to have the thought of death in one’s mind.”
(St. Hesychios the Priest, Philokalia vol. 1)

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
(Sir Winston Churchill)

Introduction

In the eighth or ninth century (the exact origins are unclear), western monastics in the Benedictine tradition developed a set of devotional offices to pray for the repose of the dead.

These devotions were combined with emergent devotions to Our Lady (notably, the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin) and various other little offices (of the angels, of all saints, etc.) as pious additions to the canonical Divine Office recited according to the Rule of St. Benedict.

Eventually, some of them, including the Office of the Dead, became an integral part of the formal liturgical prayer…

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