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The Requiem Mass

posted Sep 6, 2012, 3:30 PM by admin user   [ updated Oct 8, 2013, 1:58 PM by Bob Rudi ]
The Requiem Mass (Missa pro Defunctis, Mass for the Dead), “one of the most beautiful and expressive in the Roman Missal,” is of very ancient origin. In pre-Apostolic times the Jews prayed that the immortal souls of the just might have requiem aeternam (“rest eternal”), and sources from the 2nd century mention this celebration of the Eucharist, as do the New Testament apocryphal Acts of John and the writings of Tertullian from the 3rd century.

The name Requiem (which is taken from the first word of the Introit: Requiem aeternam …, Rest eternal …) is used to refer to the Mass itself and to musical settings of the text (i.e., Verdi’s Requiem). The liturgy follows the same order as the Common Mass, but other texts are frequently added by composers as part of the Requiem which belong to the Burial Rite (Libera me, In paradisum) or come from the Psalms or other Biblical writings. Composers do not always follow the liturgical order of the movements in their musical settings; movements are sometimes omitted entirely, or combined in part with other movements, or repeated for musical purposes. These choices always offer insights into the ways a particular composer is thinking musically, theologically, and philosophically and are well worth careful attention.