The Beauty of the Requiem Mass

“…The life of those who are faithful to Thee, O Lord, is but changed, not ended; and when their earthly dwelling-place decays, an everlasting mansion stands prepared for them in heaven…” – words from the Preface of the Requiem Mass.

The Requiem mass is one of my favourites masses. The reason having everything to do with it being one of the most beautiful masses of the Catholic Church. As Catholics, we are called to pray for the dead. It is both a corporal as well as spiritual work of mercy to do so. At the funeral of a practising Catholic, I am always more sad for the living, for the family members and friends left behind, who are now to carry on their lives without the love and being of the one they’ve lost. There is nothing to be sad about for the one we are burying if they died a holy death. They are facing what we will all one day face: judgement. And if they strived to live their life in accordance with God’s laws, they will, through God’s mercy, attain heaven. How beautiful a way to die after having seen a priest and received the Last Rights.

As my parish priest said yesterday in his sermon at the requiem mass of a beloved elder of the parish: there isn’t a more perfect way to be buried than with the same prayers used to bury so many saints of the Church. How could one want to be buried any different!? Personally, the thought of being buried in any way that is not the Tridentine Requiem Mass makes me feel nauseous. There are more prayers, more graces, more benefit to the departed soul through the Requiem Latin Mass than in a Norvus Ordo funeral mass. Research it.

The priest’s vestments are black, symbolizing deepest mourning. A frequent comment from non-Latin lovers is that the Latin Requiem mass is too “full of doom” or “depressing & sad”. This couldn’t be more untrue. Here are some translations of various parts and prayers of the Requiem mass:

The Responsory prayer upon entering the Church: invokes intercession of the angles & saints

R. Come to his assistance, Ye Saints of God, come forth to meet him, ye Angels of the Lord, Receiving his soul, Offering it in the sight of the Most High.

V. May Christ receive the Who has called thee, and may the Angels lead thee into Abraham’s bosom.

R. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord,

V. And let perpetual light shine upon him.

The Introit: Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis. Te decet hymnus, Deus, in Sio, et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem: exaudi orationem meam, ad te omnis caro veniet.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and et perpetual light shine upon them. A hymn, O God, becometh Thee in Sion; and a vow shall be paid to Thee in Jerusalem: hear my prayer; all flesh shall come to Thee.

The Collect: Deus, cui proprium est misereri semper et parcere…

O God, Whose property is ever to have mercy and to spare, we humbly entreat Thee on behalf of the soul of thy servant N., whom Thou hast bidden this day to pass out of this world: that Though wouldst not deliver him into the hands of the enemy nor forget him for ever, but command him to be take up by the holy Angels, and to be borne to our home in paradise, that as he had put his faith and hope in Thee he may not undergo the pains of hell but may possess everlasting joys. Through our Lord. Amen.

The Sequence: is a beautiful chant from Mozart’s Requiem – irae, dies illa

Not only does the simple chant help with prayer, but the prayer itself is powerful. Translation below:

Day of wrath, day of anger
will dissolve the world in ashes,
as foretold by David and the Sibyl.
Great trembling there will be
when the Judge descends from heaven
to examine all things closely.

The trumpet will send its wondrous sound
throughout earth’s sepulchres
and gather all before the throne.

Death and nature will be astounded,
when all creation rises again,
to answer the judgement.
A book will be brought forth,
in which all will be written,
by which the world will be judged.

When the judge takes his place,
what is hidden will be revealed,
nothing will remain unavenged.

What shall a wretch like me say?
Who shall intercede for me,
when the just ones need mercy?

Remember, kind Jesus,
my salvation caused your suffering;
do not forsake me on that day.

Faint and weary you have sought me,
redeemed me, suffering on the cross;
may such great effort not be in vain.

Righteous judge of vengeance,
grant me the gift of absolution
before the day of retribution.

I moan as one who is guilty:
owning my shame with a red face;
suppliant before you, Lord.

You, who absolved Mary,
and listened to the thief,
give me hope also.

My prayers are unworthy,
but, good Lord, have mercy,
and rescue me from eternal fire.

Provide me a place among the sheep,
and separate me from the goats,
guiding me to Your right hand.

When the accused are confounded,
and doomed to flames of woe,
call me among the blessed.
I kneel with submissive heart,
my contrition is like ashes,
help me in my final condition.

That day of tears and mourning,
when from the ashes shall arise,
all humanity to be judged.
Spare us by your mercy, Lord,
gentle Lord Jesus,
grant them eternal rest. Amen.

A prayer said at the blessing of the grave:

O God, by Whose mercy the sould of the faithful rest, vouchsafe to bless this grace, and appoint Thy holy Angel to keep it; and release the souls of all these whose bodies are buries here from every bond ofsin, that they may always rejoice in Thee with Thy Saints for ever. Through Christ our Lord.

In Paradisum: a traditional hymn sung at the end of the funeral mass. 

In paradisum, deducant te Angeli: in tuo adventus suscipiante Martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem. Chorus Angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere aeternam habeas requiem.

May the Angels lead thee into paradise: may the Martyrs receive thee into the holy city of Jerusalem. May the choir of Angels receive thee, and mayest thou have eternal rest with Lazarus, who once was poor.

And this is only part of the Requiem mass prayers.


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