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.
Introit (4 Esdras 2:34-35; Psalm 64:2-3)
Gradual (4 Esdras 2:34-35; Psalm 111:7)
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.
Communion (4 Esdras 2:34-35)
After the Mass there are a series of prayers added at Coffin itself…