November is traditionally devoted to prayer for the holy souls in Purgatory, and in the Requiem Mass the Church offers us a powerful way to intercede on their behalf. The prayers of this Mass, perhaps most well-known from Mozart’s setting of them, guide the Christian through the terrors of death and judgment to confident rest in the Lord. This post offers reflections upon some of those prayers, beginning with the Officium (or Introit).
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Te decet hymnus Deus in Sion, et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem. Exaudi orationem meam; ad te omnis caro veniet.
[Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. A hymn is fitting for You in Zion, O God, and a vow will be rendered to You in Jerusalem. Hear my prayer; to You all flesh will come.]
Shine the light of heaven upon our beloved faithful departed, O Lord, that they may join the praises ringing in Your heavenly court. Grant that we, also, may join this mighty chorus of praise as we offer this Requiem Mass to the glory of Your name. Have mercy on me, O Lord! For I too will soon follow these departed souls. Allow me to glimpse enough of Your light here on earth that I might follow it into eternity.
Dies irae, dies illa solvet saeclum in favilla, teste David cum Sibylla. / Judex ergo cum sedebit, quidquid latet apparebit: nil inultum remanebit. / Qui Mariam absolvisti, et latronem exaudisti, mihi quoque spem dedisti.
[Day of wrath, that day will dissolve the world in ashes, as foretold by David with the Sibyl. / Therefore, when the Judge will sit, whatever lies hidden will appear: nothing will remain unpunished. / You Who absolved Mary and graciously heard the thief also gave me hope.]
Lord, when the moon goes dark and the stars fall from the sky, as all flesh lies in judgment before You, Your majesty will be revealed to the nations. Our deeds are as ashes in the revealing light of Your glory; we have nothing to commend ourselves to You. Yet You deigned to forgive the sins of Mary Magdalene, and she followed You to the end. The thief repented, and You led him into Your kingdom. I, like them, Lord, fly to You and confess my sins. I beg Your mercy, though my prayers faint before the splendor of Your might.
Preces meae non sunt dignae; sed tu bonus fac benigne, ne perenni cremer igne. / Pie Jesu Domine, dona eis requiem. Amen.
[My prayers are not worthy; but act kindly, You Who are Good, that I may not be consumed by the eternal fire. / Holy Lord Jesus, grant them rest. Amen.]
We offer this prayer for our beloved departed, O Lord, for they cannot pray for themselves. Our own prayers are scarcely better, but You in Your Goodness promised to hear the cries of Your children. Show forth Your power, Lord, and save our souls from the unquenchable fire.
Qui manducat meam carnem et bibit meum sanguinem habet vitam aeternam: Et ego resuscitabo eum in novissimo die.
[Whoever eats my flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life: And I will raise him on the last day.]
Lord, we ask for life and You give us Life, Your very self. Your servants faithfully received You; remember Your promise, O Lord! As they can no longer receive this precious gift, Your flesh and blood, mercifully grant that the graces You pour out on us here at this Mass might overflow into Your sons and daughters who await the light of Your face.
Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine, cum sanctis tuis in aeternum: quia pius es.
[May eternal light shine upon them, O Lord, with Your saints forever: for You are faithful.]
We thank You for this gift of Holy Communion, O Lord, and as we contemplate Your presence within us, we see once more our weakness. And yet, Lord, we can rest contentedly in Your care; we can relax and savor the graces of abiding with You here, now, in this church. And as we rest, Holy Mother Church reminds us: God is ever faithful to His people! Our weakness is as nothing before the power of God, and it is in this faithful, merciful power that we place our trust. Lord, we pray for our beloved dead, but without fear: quia pius es.
Requiescant in pace. Amen.
Image: Georges de La Tour, The Penitent Magdalen