Funeral Pall

If we listen carefully to the texts used at a funeral liturgy, we discover that there are several references made to the baptism of the person who is now deceased. One reference occurs at the very beginning of the liturgy, during the rite of the reception of the body. To emphasize the importance of the person’s baptism, the Church in Canada encourages the use of a pall at the funeral liturgy. This pall is to be placed on the coffin during the rite of reception of the body by family members, friends, or by parish ministers. This pall is a reminder of the white baptismal garment, a sign of the Christian dignity of the person. Just as the new Christian was clothed in the white garment when he or she became a member of the Church, the coffin is covered with a white cloth as the person enters into a new life in the resurrection of Jesus. Covering the coffin is a way to make a statement about the identity of the deceased; it proclaims that the greatest thing that can be said about the deceased person is that he or she is a sister or brother of Christ, a member of the Church. The pall is also a sign of hope, of the resurrection, of new life beyond this life, a banner that points to a continued relationship to the deceased person in the time to come. Its use also signifies that in the eyes of God all are equal (Order of Christian Funerals, no. 38). It might also be said that it is the white cloth itself that is the symbol; it does not need to have any symbols added to it to explain or add to what it means.