Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fr. Robert Pasley on the Dies Irae

Requiem Mass – June 27, 2012 CMAA Colloquium, Salt Lake City, Utah.
Today we offer this Requiem Mass for the Souls of all the deceased members of the Church Music Association of America. Eternal Rest grant unto them, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.
On this day on which we pray for the dead, and meditate upon the reality of death in relation to our Faith, I would like to take a few moments to meditate upon one of the most sublime poems ever composed for the Sacred Liturgy.
It has been said,
“Sacrae poeseos summum decus et Ecclesiae Latiniae keimelion est pretiosissimum.”

“It is the chief glory of sacred poetry and the most precious treasure of the Latin
Church.”

This poem has been translated into almost every language and has over 230 individual translations in English.
I speak of the the Dies Irae.
There are many theories about its origin. Most historians seem to think that it came into existence between 1253 and 1255 AD. There are also many theories about its author. A good number of scholars attribute it to Thomas of Celano, the friend, fellow friar, and biographer of Saint Francis of Assisi. It very quickly found its way into the Roman Missal and became a standard part of the Funeral Liturgy until 1970. It was in constant use for over 700 years.
The Dies Irae is rich with an inexhaustible spiritual depth. It is a reflection upon the words of Sacred Scripture and it has something very important to tell us as we pray for the dead, meditate upon death, and prepare for the day of our own death.
It begins with reverent fear and humility.
He is King of Tremendous Glory. The trumpet will sound as he comes to Judge the world. All that is not holy will lay in ashes. The dead will be summoned before His Throne.

Modern man must once again learn to know his place before the majesty of God. God is greater than the power of the sun that shines in the sky. He is greater than the power of all the stars in the universe. He is incomprehensible in glory and strength – and He will come to Judge us - to Judge you - to Judge me. Those steeped in sin, unrepentant, arrogant, presumptuous, and proud must know and be warned that it will be a Day of Wrath, a dreadful day. For those who die in the friendship of God but still in need of cleansing it will be a place of purifying fire – a time of purgatorial cleansing

The Dies Irae tells us that the truth will be revealed. All our thoughts, words and actions will be brought to light. God is a God of truth and he cannot be fooled by lies and deception. We are individually responsible for our actions. There is no more chance to blame others for what we have done - “The book of life will be outspread, and all that it contains will be read, to try the living and the dead.

God is a God of Justice. He must repay good for good and meet out punishment for evil. He does not overlook our sins if we do not repent, and if we have repented we still need to do penance to repair the damage. – “Then shall the judge His throne attain, and every secret sin arraign, till nothing unavenged remain.”

All of a sudden, after these very sober and somber thoughts, the mood changes and we now see the other side of God’s relationship with us.

He is a God of Mercy. He will save us if we call out to Him. He will forgive us if we repent of our sins. “What shall my guilty conscience plead, and who for me will intercede, When even saints forgiveness need.” “King of Tremendous Majesty, Who savest whom Thou savest, free, Thou fount of Pity, save thou me.” “ Remember, Jesus Lord I pray, for me Thou walkest on life’s way, confound me not on this last day.

Christ, our Lord and Savior understands our weakness because he became one of us. “Twas me Thy weary footsteps sought, my ransom on the cross was bought, let not such labor come to naught.”

The Lord is full of compassion. “ As Thou didst Mary’s sin efface, And take the thief to Thine embrace, So dost Thou give me hope of grace.”

He accepts a contrite heart and sincere penance. “Prostrate, my contrite heart, I rend, My God, My Father, and my Friend, do not forsake me in the end.”

Finally, we are once again reminded of Holy Fear, Humility and Reverence – “Oh day of weeping, day of woe, when rising from his pyre below, the sinner to his judge shall cry, Spare me, Thou mighty God on High.

And then, with one final gasp, our last request, a prayer filled with tenderness and hope…

AH, Pie Jesu Oh Good Jesus Oh Merciful Jesus Oh gentle Jesus – Savior blest, Grant to them all, eternal Rest. Amen.

It takes your breath away – and yet I have barely skimmed the surface.

What depth

What balance

What realism

How Candid, how hope filled, what a jewel of our spiritual and liturgical heritage.