From the Organ Bench
Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
“Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” Revelation 14:13 NIV
On Sunday, March 22, during morning worship, the Sanctuary Choir presented portions of Requiem by the British composer John Rutter, accompanied by flute, oboe, timpani, percussion, harp, cello, and organ. Many of you have heard John Rutter’s works sung by our choir and have remarked that his music is melodic, easy to follow, and beautiful. This will certainly be the case for this choral offering, although there are some places where the music reflects anxiety and restlessness through the use of mild dissonances. You are invited to share in the beauty of this work as part of your worship experience on that Sunday.
One might ask, “Just what is a requiem?” If you have been exposed to Catholic or Anglican worship, you may already know that the requiem is a mass, or collective worship service, for those who have departed this life. It consists of prayers to God for His favor on the departed, that they may enjoy the blessedness and peace of eternity with Him in the heavens. During the Lenten season many choirs offer requiem masses composed by such well-known masters as Beethoven, Mozart, Verdi, Fauré, and Brahms, perhaps in part because since the Lenten season focuses our worship toward the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, it is appropriate to consider our own death and that of those we know and love who have departed this life.
As Christians, we acknowledge that the resurrection, rather than the death of our Lord, has provided us with the hope of our own redemption, resurrection, and eternal life. So the prayers we offer in the requiem may also reflect our hope of enjoying eternal rest and blessedness upon our departure from this mortal realm.
The Rutter setting of the mass text uses both Latin and English in various movements. What follows is an overview of the sections of the work that our choir will sing.
Requiem aeternam: This movement articulates a prayer asking that eternal rest be granted to those departed from this life, and that they will be showered with light everlasting. This text does not suggest, though, that we will spend eternity in a state of reclining and relaxation. There is work to be done–that which we have been prepared for in this world and will continue to perform in the world to come. Perpetual or everlasting light signifies a continual stream of wisdom from the Lord in heaven–a constant process of learning more about the Lord and His loving interactions with His people.
Out of the Deep: This movement is a setting of portions of Psalm 130 in which we ask the Lord to forgive our sins according to His mercy, and to bring us all into heaven through our personal redemption.
Pie Jesu: This beautiful prayer to the Lord approaches Him as “Holy Jesus,” and implores Him for the eternal rest of the faithful.
Sanctus: The “Sanctus” in the mass text acknowledges the holiness of God, quoting Isaiah 6:3 and Revelation 4:8, combined with the words of Jesus found in Matthew 23:39.
Lux aeterna: The beautiful “Lux aeterna” prayer asks that all souls may find eternal light, or eternal enlightenment. As before in the opening prayer, the light of God, meaning the truth of God, is to be given to the faithful. John Rutter opens this final movement with a reiteration of the Revelation 14:13 scripture quoted at the opening of this article.
As we all consider that time when we, too, will leave our mortal bodies and come into the life of the spirit, let us diligently prepare our hearts and minds by acquiring the truth of God’s Word through study of the Bible and its application to our lives, and through our nurturing of one another in the love of God.
Donald E. Dillard