Blessed are they who mourn; they shall be consoled.
— Matthew 5:3
This first part of the journey allows the family to experience support, consolation and care.
The place and manner of each death is so unique, so variable, and often brings a sense of bewilderment, loss and uncertainty, even despair.
The Vigil is the first gathering of family and friends with the faith community in the time immediately following the death of a loved one and is the first opportunity for the mourners to experience, within the context of the Christian community, the comfort of God's word through reading of the scriptures and communal prayer.
— Order of Christian Funerals, paragraph 56
When the visitation begins, a family wonders Who will come?…What does this death, so keenly felt by us, mean to others outside our family? Most families are overwhelmed by the compassion and concern, faith and faithfulness of those who make the special effort to gather.
Tears and smiles make the sharing of memories both bitter and sweet. Often mourners share the unknown or forgotten parts of the deceased's life. Good people come to truly pay respect, not only to the dead, but also to the living. Families may show significant objects, media presentations or picture collages that speak of their dear one.
Visitation, Wake, Vigil
Within the visitation, the formal Vigil prayer occurs. There are many ways the family can shape and participate in this service. Even the Vigil prayer with its order of biblical readings, prayers and petitions, music and silence allows for a public sharing of stories, poignant memories or personal anecdotes making individual remembrances the property of the gathered community.
Historically the vigil took place in the home of the deceased. The family and others kept vigil by the deathbed, prepared the body for burial and then kept vigil through the many hours…day and night…until the funeral. In the last century, people have chosen their local funeral home for this service. Since the faith life of Christians centers on the parish church, it is becoming more common for vigils and visitations to be held there. Occasionally, the visitation takes place in a cemetery chapel; however, this may present problems as it relates to the full and ideal OCF.