The death of a loved one can cause us great sorrow and pain. We often feel anguish at the physical absence of someone whose presence brought joy to our life. When the circumstances surrounding death are unexpected or tragic our grief may also be tinged with anger and bemusement. The inevitable question as to why the person has been called from this life at this particular moment arises. Mourning is a perfectly natural reaction to the passing of a loved one. Scripture reminds us that Jesus himself wept at the death of his friend Lazarus.
Yet Christ made clear on that occasion that he is the Resurrection and the Life. He bore testimony to this through his death and resurrection whereby Jesus conquered sin and death forever. This is the cornerstone of our faith as Christians. Indeed, Christ is the source of our hope. Therefore, after the initial sadness associated with the loss of a friend, we are consoled by the expectation that those who have passed from this life in faith may enter into eternal life with God. Death does not mark the end but rather it inaugurates the fulfilment of new birth which was begun for us at Baptism, strengthened at Confirmation and nourished in the Eucharist.
The Christian funeral is not a sacrament but it is a liturgical celebration. It expresses the Paschal character of Christian death in the hope of the resurrection. It also provides for a sense of communion with the deceased, above all through prayer for the purification of the soul.
The Church who, as Mother, has borne the Christian sacramentally in her womb during his earthly pilgrimage, accompanies him at his journey's end, in order to surrender him "into the Father's hands." She offers to the Father, in Christ, the child of his grace, and she commits to the earth, in hope, the seed of the body that will rise in glory. This offering is fully celebrated in the Eucharistic sacrifice; the blessings before and after Mass are sacramentals.
[Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1683]
There are four principal elements to the funeral liturgy: