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The Requiem Mass

Within the Roman Liturgy there are many different Masses for different Feasts of Saints, Commemorations of certain important events in the history of the Church, and those which are designed to ask of God a particular favor.  Of this last category none are so famous or beloved as the Requiem Mass, which is given us by Holy Mother Church as a wonderful means for praying for the dearly departed and helping them out of Purgatory.

The Requiem Mass has a number of distinctions from a typical Roman Rite Mass which can be read about in The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, by the Rev. Father Adrian Fortescue.  These differences are in large part due to the more ancient nature of the Requiem Mass which has allowed for almost no change at all because it is the Mass connected with the death and burial of loved ones.  Thus the emotional ties with the Mass have made it remain in this form without allowing even the few minor changes we see in a typical Mass.

Interestingly the Requiem Mass resembles in many was the Liturgy of Holy Week, which makes sense when you consider that those liturgies are devoted to the passion and death of our Lord.  Thus there is no Liturgy in the Roman Rite outside of Holy Week that is more beautiful than the Requiem Mass, and this especially in the case of it’s chants.

One other note is that the Requiem Mass retains from antiquity its beautiful and terrifying sequence the Dies Irae, which is only one of five sequences that survived the purging of the multitude that once existed in the Western Rites up until the 20th Century.

(4 Esdras 2:34-35; Psalm 64:2-3)

Eternal rest give to them, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them.  To You we owe our hymn of praise, O God, in Sion; to You must vows be fulfilled in Jerusalem. Hear my prayer; to You all flesh must come.  Eternal rest give to them, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them.

(4 Esdras 2:34-35; Psalm 111:7)
Eternal rest give to them, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them.  The just man shall be in everlasting remembrance; an evil report he shall not fear.

O Lord, absolve the souls of all the faithful departed from every bond of sin. And by the help of Your grace may they be worthy to escape the sentence of vengeance.  And to enjoy all the beatitude of the light eternal.


Dreaded day, that day of ire,

When the world shall melt in fire,

Told by Sibyl and David’s lyre.


Fright men’s hearts shall rudely shift,

As the Judge through gleaming rift

Comes each soul to closely sift.


Then, the trumpet’s shrill refrain,

Piercing tombs by hill and plain,

Souls to judgment shall arraign.


Death and nature stand aghast,

As the bodies rising fast,

Hie to hear the sentence passed.


Then, before Him shall be placed,

That whereon the verdict’s based,

Book wherein each deed is traced.


When the Judge His seat shall gain,

All that’s hidden shall be plain,

Nothing shall unjudged remain.


Wretched man, what can I plead?

Whom to ask to intercede,

When the just much mercy need?


You, O awe-inspiring Lord,

Saving e’en when unimplored,

Save me, mercy’s fount adored.


O sweet Jesus, mindful be,

That You came on earth for me:

Cast me not from You this day.


Seeking me Your strength was spent

Ransoming Your limbs were rent:

Is this toil to no intent?


You, awarding pains condign,

Mercy’s ear to me incline,

Ere the reckoning You assign.


I, felon-like, my lot bewail,

Suffused cheeks my shame unveil:

God! O let my prayer prevail.


Mary’s soul You fashioned white,

And did to heaven the thief invite;

Hope in me these now excite.


Prayers of mine in vain ascend:

You are good and will forefend,

In quenchless fire my life to end.


When the cursed by shame oppressed,

Enter flames at Your behest,

Call me then to join the blessed.


Place amid Your sheep accord,

Keep me from the tainted horde,

Set me in Your sight, O Lord.


Prostrate, suppliant, now no more

Unrepenting, as of yore,

Save me dying, I implore.


Mournful day that day of sighs,

When from dust shall man arise,

Stained with guilt his doom to know,


Mercy, Lord, on him bestow.

Jesus, kind! Your souls release,

Led them thence to realms of peace. Amen.

O Lord, Jesus Christ, King of glory, deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hell and the deep pit; deliver them from the lion’s mouth, that hell engulf them not, nor they fall into darkness, but that Michael, the holy standard-bearer, bring them into the holy light which You once promised to Abraham and his seed. We offer You, O Lord, sacrifices and prayers of praise; accept them for those souls whom we this day commemorate; grant them, O Lord, to pass from death to the life which You once promised to Abraham and his seed.

(4 Esdras 2:34-35)
May light eternal shine upon them, O Lord, with Your Saints forever, for You are kind.  Grant them eternal rest, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon them: with Your Saints forever, for You are kind.

After the Mass there are a series of prayers added at Coffin itself…
Libera Me Domine

Deliver me, O Lord, from death eternal on that fearful day, when the heavens and the earth shall be moved, when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire. I am made to tremble, and I fear, till the judgment be upon us, and the coming wrath, when the heavens and the earth shall be moved. That day, day of wrath, calamity, and misery, day of great and exceeding bitterness, when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire. Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord: and let light perpetual shine upon them.

In Paradisum

May Angels lead you into paradise; may the Martyrs receive you at your coming and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem. May a choir of Angels receive you, and with Lazarus, who once was poor, may you have eternal rest.

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