Posts Tagged 'Death'

Requiems in December

16 December 2010, Thursday, 3rd Week of Advent.

A close friend’s father passed away last Friday. I went to visit him last Thursday. I was absolutely shocked at his appearance. I had only seen him one month ago, and he had lost so much weight. He could barely speak, while hooked onto a nasal canula.

In less than twenty four hours he was gone.

The Sunday before he passed away I actually wondered if the family had already sent for a priest. When I spoke to my friend on Tuesday, he said that they already had. Deo gratias.

The funeral was on Tuesday. It was one of the saddest ones I’ve attended. So many were weeping, and I could not comfort them at all. Not my closest friend, not his mother. I have forgotten how to cry as well.

Woman, behold Thy son. Behold Thy Mother.

I will miss the dear sir. I still have one of his books with me, which I have not finished reading. I shall take this as a parting gift.

The day before the funeral, I attended a wake of a senior Legionary from my parish. This was a man that I highly respected. He was a good example to many. I regret that I was not able to learn all the secrets of the apostolate from him.

Funny it seems that I am surrounded by death and destruction. The people that I have prayed for are now dead. Recent events have caused me to be doubtful of many things, yet hopeful at the same time. Still, I cannot help but feel rather helpless.

I guess it is not too late that we remind myself of these things: The glory of the world fades. Time flies. Memento Mori. Remember that you will die. Treasure your loved ones while you still walk the earth.

May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.

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Death and Liturgy

A relative of mine passed away recently. He was bedridden for a few years. He was baptized in March this year by a priest who went to visit his home. His wife also returned to practicing the faith.

On the day of the cremation, the priest arrived at the wake to take the body to the church. After a few short prayers, the undertakers transported the body into a hearse.

On arrival at the church, the body was brought into the church with the altar servers in front, and the priest flanking the coffin. We followed behind in procession. The immediate family placed a white pall over the coffin. The priest was in purple vestments.

The priest preached a simple homily about the end of life. The intercessory prayers followed, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist was commenced.

As at all Masses for the dead, there was no final blessing.

The body was sprinkled with holy water and incensed before being brought out of the church. In the Extraordinary Form, this takes place at the Absolution of the Dead. The Absolution of the Dead is not practiced in the Ordinary Form.

After that we recited the In Paradisum.

May angels lead you into paradise; upon your arrival, may the martyrs receive you and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem. May the ranks of angels receive you, and with Lazarus, the poor man, may you have eternal rest.

The family removed the white pall. As the body was being brought out, we sang one more hymn.

The cremation was at Mandai. A lay funeral minister led the rite of commital. Very emotional for all the relatives present.

Having attended Requiem Masses in the Extraordinary Form, this Mass seemed rather insipid. The hymns didn’t seem very mournful at all. It was vaguely comforting. Of course we must be grateful for having a choir to sing for the funeral Mass.

I think this arises from a problem in modern Catholic music. In theory, we should sing the Mass, not sing songs at Mass. What do we mean by singing the Mass? If we look at the missal carefully, there are things such as the Introit, Responsorial Psalm, Communion Antiphons, and these are meant to be sung. Instead, we have taken the easy way out and substituted them with ‘suitable’ hymns, which may turn out to be not so suitable afterall.

Meaningful parts such as these are left out.

Introit: Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

It’s bad enough that we are leaving things out from the modern missal. Let’s not discuss what the modern missal has removed from the old missal. In the old missal it would be like this:

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

A hymn becomes you, O God, in Zion, and to you shall a vow be repaid in Jerusalem. Hear my prayer; to you shall all flesh come.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.

Dies irae is also omitted from the Ordinary Form:

Day of wrath! O day of mourning!
See fulfilled the prophets’ warning,
Heaven and earth in ashes burning!

This sequence was formerly recited or chanted before the Gospel. Nowadays it has been removed. We can still, however, sing this hymn during the Divine Office. This hymn reminds us of the Final Judgement, and asks us to pray to God to spare us. There are several orchestral versions of this song, which you can easily find on Youtube.

The offertory antiphon is also very comforting to the bereaved:

Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory,
free the souls of all the faithful departed
from infernal punishment and the deep pit.
Free them from the mouth of the lion;
do not let Tartarus swallow them,
nor let them fall into darkness;
but may the sign-bearer, Saint Michael,
lead them into the holy light
which you promised to Abraham and his seed.

O Lord, we offer you
sacrifices and prayers in praise;
accept them on behalf of the souls
whom we remember today.
Let them, O Lord, pass over from death to life,
as you promised to Abraham and his seed.

Lamentation, lamentation. Students of classical music know that the Requiem Mass has inspired many musicians to write great pieces of music based on the Mass. These prayers are also great spiritual treasures. What treasures we are losing nowadays!

Other than the music, there are also external signs. Traditionally, the vestments are black. The Church, like a sorrowful mother, puts on mourning colours for those who have left the earthly life. Of course, Purple and White are allowed nowadays.

Nevertheless we make the best with what we have. Let us remember the Holy Souls in our prayers.

Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.


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Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us

Stella Matutina, ora pro nobis

Our Lady of Perpetual Succor, pray for us

St Michael the Archangel, pray for us

St Jude, pray for us

St Benedict, pray for us

St Dominic, pray for us

St Anthony, pray for us

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