Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Good Death

From Henry the Young King:
Throughout the Middle Ages, the Church had fixed ideal rites for the death of a person. These rites began with confession and penance. Since a dying person was usually not able to do the prescribed penance, someone else was required to do it instead, unless the sick person recovered and then had to do it in person. The sick one was then washed, dressed in clean clothes and brought into church if possible. For the actual death, the person should ideally rest upon straw and ashes. Priests brought the cross, spoke the peace rite and sprinkled blessed water and blessed ashes on the dying. They then spoke a set of prayers, followed by anointment with blessed oil (Extreme Unction). Finally, everybody present recited the Credo and the Lord’s Prayer, followed by communion for the sick (the viaticum). Of course, the ideal rites were not always what really happened. During the High Middle Ages, the cleric performing the Extreme Unction usually demanded the items necessary for the rite as donation: the linen cloth used as bedding, the necessary candles, and so on. (Read more.)

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