Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Dies Irae

One of the things I lament about the current liturgy is the Requiem Mass.

The new Requiem seems univocal, emphasising only the hope of resurrection, to the extent, sometimes. of almost forgetting that we are there to pray for the deceased, and denying us the right to mourn.  

By contrast, the old seems replete with the whole gamut of relevant human emotions, recognising both our grief, the reality of the four Last Things (Death, Judgement, Hell and Heaven) and the superabundant mercy of God.  

Yesterday I posted the wonderful In paradisum, as an expression of my hope for the repose of the soul of the late, great, Phyllis Bowman.  Today we have the Dies Irae; the great Sequence for the Requiem Mass.  This expresses something else again.  For death was not part of the original plan: Our Lord wept when he encountered it.  God is not just Merciful Redeemer, He is also fearsome judge.  Indeed, fear of the Lord is the beginning (though not the end) of wisdom.

I like this approach to chant, too.  The very ethereal chant of French monks can be hauntingly beautiful.  Too often, however, those who attempt that style ended up sounding like castrati.  Here is the antidote to that problem: masculine chant...

Dies Irae

Dies irae, dies illa
solvet saeclum in favilla:
teste David cum Sibylla.

Quantus tremor est futurus,
quando judex est venturus,
cuncta stricte discussurus!

Tuba mirum spargens sonum
per sepulcra regionum,
coget omnes ante thronum.

Mors stupebit et natura,
cum resurget creatura,
judicanti responsura.

Liber scriptus proferetur,
in quo totum continetur,
unde mundus judicetur.

Judex ergo cum sedebit,
quidquid latet apparebit:
nil inultum remanebit.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?
Quem patronum rogaturus,
cum vix justus sit securus?

Rex tremendae majestatis,
qui salvandos salvas gratis,
salva me fons pietatis.

Recordare, Jesu pie,
quod sum causa tuae viae:
ne me perdas illa die.

Quaerens me, sedisti lassus:
redemisti Crucem passus:
tantus labor non sit cassus.

Juste judex ultionis,
donum fac remissionis
ante diem rationis.

Ingemisco, tamquam reus:
culpa rubet vultus meus:
supplicanti parce, Deus.

Qui Mariam absolvisti,
et latronem exaudisti,
mihi quoque spem dedisti.

Preces meae non sunt dignae:
sed tu bonus fac benigne,
ne perenni cremer igne.

Inter oves locum praesta,
et ab haedis me sequestra,
statuens in parte dextra.

Confutatis maledictis,
flammis acribus addictis:
voca me cum benedictis.

Oro supplex et acclinis,
cor contritum quasi cinis:
gere curam mei finis.

Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:
pie Jesu Domine,
dona eis requiem. Amen.

Days of wrath! O day of mourning,
See fulfilled the prophets' warning;
Heaven and earth in ashes burning.

Oh, what fear man's bosom rendeth
When from heaven the Judge descendeth,
On whose sentence all dependeth!

Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth,
Through earth's sepulchres it ringeth,
All before the throne it bringeth.

Death is struck, and nature quaking,
All creation is awaking,
To its Judge an answer making.

Lo! the book exactly worded,
Wherein all hath been recorded;
Thence shall judgment be awarded.

When the Judge His seat attaineth,
And each hidden deed arraigneth,
Nothing unavenged remaineth.

What shall I, frail man, be pleading,
Who for me be interceding,
When the just are mercy needing?

King of majesty tremendous,
Who dost free salvation send us,
Fount of pity, then befriend us!

Think, good Jesu, my salvation
Caused Thy wondrous Incarnation.
Leave me not to reprobation.

Faint and weary Thou hast sought me,
On the cross of suffering bought me;
Shall such grace be vainly brought me?

Righteous Judge! for sin's pollution
Grant Thy gift of absolution,
Ere that day of retribution.

Guilty, now I pour my moaning,
All my shame with anguish owning;
Spare, O God, Thy suppliant groaning.

Thou the sinful woman savedst;
Thou the dying thief forgavest;
And to me a hope vouch-safest.

Worthless are my prayers and sighing;
Yet, good Lord, in grace complying,
Rescue me from fires undying.

With Thy favoured sheep, O place me,
Nor among the goats abase me,
But to Thy right hand upraise me.

While the wicked are confounded,
Doomed to flames of woe unbounded,
Call me with Thy saints surrounded.

Low I kneel, with heart-submission;
See, like ashes, my contrition;
Help me in my last condition.

Ah! that day of tears and mourning!
From the dust of earth returning
Man for judgment must prepare him.
Spare, O God, in mercy spare him!
Lord all pitying, Jesu blest,
Grant them Thine eternal rest.

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