I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10,10
The Christian faith sees death as both an end and a beginning: the end of the earthly stage and the beginning of an enriched life in the company of Christ.
The anointing of the sick:
The anointing of the sick is a sacrament that gives Christians a special grace to confront difficulties such as serious illness or old age. It is of great importance at this moment of transition between life and death. It used to be known as the "final anointing", as it was given in the last moments before death. Now it can be given more than once, as long as the person is suffering a serious illness.
This anointing joins the sick to the Passion of Christ, for both their good and the good of the Church. The sick receive solace, peace, encouragement and forgiveness for their sins (necessary if the person has not received the sacrament of reconciliation). Their bodily health is also restored (if required for spiritual health) and they are prepared for the transition to eternal life.
Liturgy of the Dead:
The Catholic liturgy regarding the treatment of the dead can be divided in four parts. This is the case even though now these celebrations tend to be brought together in one place such as a crematorium.
- The act of removing the dead body from the house. The coffin is placed on trestles and covered with a black or purple funeral cloth.
- Funeral procession to the church. The liturgy determines each person's position in the cortege.
- Prayers in the church. The eternal requiem is sung as the procession enters the church. The coffin is placed in the middle of the church with the feet towards the altar (lay people) or towards the door (priests). Candles around the coffin are lit and mass is held.
- Procession to the cemetery. After the mass and absolution the body is taken to the grave.
First the open grave is blessed. The coffin is placed next to the open grave and prayers are said. Finally, the priest retires and the coffin is lowered into the open grave.
The Catholic Church did not permit cremations until 1963.
As a consequence of the original sin our lives on Earth are ended by death. Adam sinned, sin entered our world and with it came death.
The immortal soul leaves the body. There is a Final Judgement immediately after death and God rewards or punishes the dead depending on how they have lived their lives:
Heaven: only those who are free of sin go. They go to see, adore and possess God. They enjoy God's infinite goodness.
Purgatory: those who are in God's grace, but are stained by some sin, go. They purify themselves to prepare for entry to heaven. Their punishments are different from those of the dammed. Prayers, good works, indulgences and most particularly holy masses can help these souls.
Hell: those souls that die in mortal sin (separated from God) go. They are eternally punished for rejecting God.
Condemnation to the eternal fires and all unadulterated evil is God's definitive privation.
Resurrection of the Body:
At the end of the world our bodies will be resuscitated and reunited with our souls in order to be judged. Depending on our actions with body and soul we will be eternally rewarded or punished.
The Second Coming of Christ:
After the Resurrection of the Body, Jesus Christ will come in his glory and majesty to judge all men. Those who are rewarded will live forever.
With the Second Coming of Christ the Kingdom of God will be established. The Devil and evil will be vanquished forever.
We do not know when the end of the world will come or when Jesus Christ will return to judge all men.