Monday, 14 November 2011

Remembrance Sunday 2011

A Solemn Mass of Requiem was celebrated yesterday at St James's, offered for the repose of the souls of all those who have lost their lives in the wars and conflicts of the last century.  Being used to the way Remembrance Sunday is marked in the Church of England, and never having attended a Remembrance Sunday Requiem Mass in the Catholic Church, we were not entirely sure what to expect, but what we did find was very very pleasing.

The church was beautifully prepared.  As I had arrived slightly early, I had the opportunity to take a couple of pictures without causing too much disturbance, before too many people had arrived and begun their devotions.  These two photos show the black altar frontal on the High Altar, and the poppies both before the High Altar and on the hanging on the pulpit legilium.  You might spot that beeswax candles were used (not just on the altar, but around the church), as is appropriate for a requiem. 

After the Creed, which ended almost exactly at 11am, a trumpeter played the Last Post and we began the observation of two minutes of silence.  Then, the trumpeter played the Rouse, after which we moved on to the intercessions.  Pairing these two bugle calls in this way always seems to be much more theologically appropriate than ending a period of silence with the Last Post : the night time call, the Last Post, is followed by a period of silence and reflection, before the call of the Rouse (being the call to rise, not the call to wake up, which is the Reveille). 

Even the arrival of the procession was moving, first the thurifer and four acolytes bearing requiem candles, then the Cross being borne by an army officer in dress uniform, and finally, after the MC, three concelebrating priests (Frs Colven, Irwin and Kavanagh) in black chasubles. 

As usual, the music was of the highest quality, the six part Victoria Requiem being sung.  The solo chant section of the end of Offertory, the Hostias, was as haunting as ever.  After Mass, instead of the usual recessional hymn, we sang two verses of the National Anthem while the sanctuary party joined us in facing towards the High Altar.  I wish I had had the nerve to take a photo of that moment, but perhaps next year. 

In posts earlier this month, both on Armistice Day, 11 November and on All Souls' Day, we referred to our duty to pray for the dead, along with some explanation of why this is such a strongly Catholic approach.  Fr Colven brought this very clearly into focus once again in his Homily yesterday, noting that the Church instructs us to pray for the departed.  Praying for the Living and the Dead is indeed one of the Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy.  So, once more, let us pray for the repose of the souls of all the faithful departed, especially those who gave their lives in war, that others might live in freedom and in peace.

Let us conclude with the words of the Angel's Farewell, the conclusion of the Dream of Gerontius, written of course by Blessed John Henry Newman.  At his point, Gerontius has died and is now referred to as the Soul, and is guided after death by his Guardian Angel, past demons of hell and briefly into the Beatific Vision, before being gently placed in Purgatory by the Angel.  The Angel addresses the Soul in the following words.  
Softly and gently, dearly-ransom'd soul
In my most loving arms I now enfold thee
And, o'er the penal waters, as they roll,
I poise thee, and I lower thee, and hold thee.
And carefully I dip thee in the lake,
And thou, without a sob or a resistance,
Dost through the flood thy rapid passage take,
Sinking deep, deeper, into the dim distance. 
Angels, to whom the willing task is given,
Shall tend, and nurse, and lull thee, as thou liest;
And Masses on the earth, and prayers in Heaven,
Shall aid thee at the Throne of the Most Highest.
Farewell, but not forever, brother dear,
Be brave and patient on thy bed of sorrow;
Swiftly shall pass thy night of trial here,
And I will come and wake thee on the morrow.  
Farewell! Farewell! 

Lord, Thou hast been our refuge: in every generation;
Before the hills were born, and the world
was, from age to age Thou art God.
Bring us not, Lord, very low: for Thou hast
said, Come back again, O Lord! how long:
and be entreated for Thy servants
The organ arrangement of this beautiful piece was played as retiring voluntary yesterday at St James's.  Here is a recording of Janet Baker singing the original.

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

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