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A unique prayer for King Richard III

 Justin Welby
Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, before the coffin was lowered into the ground

The place I would like to start in my closer discussion of the reburial rite is with the unique prayer I found in the medieval rite of reburial, a prayer not known to exist in any other liturgy. This is a moving prayer, which draws on the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14) and was clearly included in the medieval rite to justify a reburial. This prayer was read by The Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday, just before the coffin was lowered into the ground.

Dry Bones
Dry Bones: Ezekiel 37:1-14

Below, I have given the original Latin from the document, a straight English translation of the Latin and then the prayer as it appeared in the service. Apart from changes to enable modern wording for the service (something the Dean was passionate about), there is one obvious omission (see the passage in red).

This is a good example of changes we had to make to the medieval rite. This passage was considered too medieval in tone; indeed, it discusses ‘a pardon of full indulgence’. These changes were not made overnight or in one meeting – they were the result of endless e-mail exchanges and discussions in our liturgical team meetings. I hope you enjoy reading this poignant and unique prayer. It was wonderful to hear it read in context yesterday after so many hours working on it.

BL, Harley
BL, Harley MS 6466, f.33r: Ezekiel Prayer

As it appears in the document in Latin: Oremus. Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, animarum conditor et redemptor, qui per Ezechielis vaticinium ossa vehementer arida nervis compingere, pelle et carnibus superinduere, ac in ea spiraculum vitæ intromittere dignatus es: te supplices deprecamur pro anima in cari nostri N [nomine], cuius ossa iam denuo tradimus sepultura, ut ei tribuere digneris placidam et quietam mansionem et remittas omnes lubrice temeritatis offensas, ut concessa sibi venia plenæ indulgentiæ quicquid in hoc seculo proprio vel alieno reatu deliquit, totum ineffabili pietate tua deleas et abstergas. Qui cum Deo Patre et Spiritu Sancto vivis et regnas, Deus per omnia sæcula sæculorum. Amen.

Translated into English: Let us pray. Omnipotent and eternal God, creator and redeemer of souls, who through the prophecy of Ezechiel are worthy to bind together truly dry bones with sinews, to cover them with skin and flesh, and to put into them the breath of life, we supplicants pray to you for the soul of our dear [INSERT NAME] whose bones we now place in the grave that you may deign to grant him a peaceful and quiet resting place and, that having remitted all his sins of worldly heedlessness as conceded to him by a pardon of full indulgence, that, through your ineffable mercy, you erase and wash away all of it, whatever he has erred in this world by his own or another’s guilt. Who with God the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, God through all for ever and ever. Amen.

Changed for the reinterment service (see p 16 of the Order of Service): Almighty and eternal God, creator and redeemer of souls, who by the prophecy of Ezekiel deigned to bind together dry bones with sinews, to cover them with skin and flesh, and to put into them the breath of life: as we return the bones of your servant Richard to the grave, we beseech you to grant him a peaceful and quiet resting place, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

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