The Angelus

Volume 4, Number 42

From John Beddingfield: Requiem aeternam

Some years ago, while I was away at school, my grandmother died.  I had been fortunate in knowing all of my grandparents, but she had lived longest, and had watched me grow up.  When she died, I felt what I now recognize as typical aspects of grief.  I felt helpless in being so far away, I felt guilty for not having seen her more recently or been there when she died.  I was a little angry; I was sad.  And I felt that larger sense of disruption and disorder that comes with a death—whether that death be gentle and somewhat expected, or whether it be sudden and violent.  Something has changed for ever and there is absolutely no going back.

We deal with death and grief in different ways, but when my grandmother died, I followed an instinct.  I lit a candle and I listened to the Duruflé Requiem.  I had known the piece musically, having sung it in choir.  I loved the melodies that are based upon Gregorian chant, I loved the smooth beauty of the piece.  But this time, I really began to pray the words.  Those words from the very beginning, “Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine” (Rest eternal, grant to them, O Lord), spoke to me and to my grief more deeply than any words of my own might have spoken.  These seemed like timeless words, sprung from a basic and natural need to reach for God in times of grief.  All of those earlier feelings of anger, longing, love, hurt, guilt, hope – all found expression in some part of the Requiem. 

Scripture and traditional prayers are interwoven in the text of the Requiem Mass.  While particular musical settings may differ, the basic outline of a Requiem Mass follows a pattern: Introit (Rest eternal, grant them, O Lord), Kyrie (Lord, have mercy), Sequence (Day of wrath), Offertory (Lord Jesus, deliver the souls of all the departed faithful), Sanctus (Holy, holy, holy) and Benedictus (Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord), Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), Communion (May light eternal shine upon them), and Libera me (Deliver me, O Lord).  As the celebration of Mass has changed through the history of the Church, there have been adjustments to the text of the Mass.

Also, theological, pastoral and sometimes personal choices have been made, adjusting the text to particular occasions or circumstances.  The Requiem Mass became especially popular in the 10th Century and was used to commemorate the dead on All Souls’ Day, November 2.  Musical settings beyond Gregorian chant (often called polyphonic settings of the Mass) became popular in the Middle Ages and continue into our day.

The Requiem is powerful, I believe, not only for its musical beauty, but also for theological and for pastoral reasons.  A Requiem gives us, who are grieving, something to do.  When we have no words, words are given.  When we have no prayer, prayers are provided.  When we have no space to pause, to be still, to be confronted by our deepest self and by God in silence—a Requiem opens up such a space.  We can rest.  We can weep.  We can exult.  We can hope.  And we do it with the Church, the Church that has come before us and the Church that will come after us. 

Last year, at around 10:30 AM on September 11, there was an impromptu staff meeting in the stairwell at Saint Mary’s.  Quickly, the rector organized us in such a way that an appropriate frontal was put on the High Altar, arrangements and signs were made, our clergy put on their cassocks and made themselves available in the church, and we turned our usual 12:15 and 6:20 Masses into Requiem Masses.  As Father Gerth explained on the spot, “there will be a time for praying for the families of the victims.  There will be a time for praying for peace.  There may be a time for praying for our enemies, but right now, we should pray for the dead—those innocent whose lives were taken so suddenly.”  That is what we did last year.  And that is what we will do this year.

Amid all the various ways of observing September 11, whether you are able to join us for the Solemn Requiem Mass, or will be elsewhere, I invite you to be silent.  I invite you to pray for one another, for those who have lost loved ones, and I invite you to pray for the dead.  Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine.  –John Beddingfield  [Mr. Beddingfield works as the rector’s administrative assistant while he looks forward to ordination in March 2003.]


PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Jolene who is hospitalized, and for Kathy, Sarah, Grover, Robert, Angel, Peter, Michael, Elenita, George, Eileen, Gloria, Jerri, Myra, Tessie, Margaret, Marion, Olga, Rick and Charles, priest.  Pray for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Patrick, Edward, Christopher, Andrew, Robert, Joseph, Mark, Ned, David and John . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . September 8: 1952 Gwendolyn Eugenia Sands; 1989 Ruth M. Hinckley.


LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Ezekiel 33:1-11, Psalm 119:33-40, Romans 12:9-21, Matthew 18:15-20 . . . The preacher at the Solemn Mass will be Dr. R. William Franklin, Scholar-in-Residence for the Bishop of New York. . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, September 7, by Father Gerth and on Saturday, September 14, by Father Weiler.


AROUND THE PARISH . . . On Tuesday evening, September 10, at 5:00 PM, Solemn Evensong will be offered with particular intentions for employees of Citibank, N.A. who perished in the terrorist attacks of last September . . . Congratulations to our assistant organist, Mr. Robert McDermitt, who began a new full time position as the music teacher for the Lower School at the Marymount School in Manhattan.  Robert will continue to be with us on Sunday mornings and other times, as his schedule permits . . . Please welcome our new seminarian, Mr. Noah Evans . . . The Women and Spirituality Group meets next on Tuesday, September 10 in Saint Benedict’s Study at 7:00 PM . . . Attendance last Sunday 247.


NOTES ON MUSIC . . . On Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude will be O Gott, du frommer Gott (Op. 122, no. 7) by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) and the postlude will be Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr, BWV 715 by J. S. Bach (1685-1750).  The soloist is Karen Coker, soprano and the anthem at Communion is Tu virginum corona from Exsultate Jubilate, K. 165 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791).  On Tuesday, September 10, at Solemn Evensong, the prelude will be O Welt, ich muss dich lassen (Op. 122, no. 11) by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897).  The setting of the Evening Canticles will be Short Service by Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625) and the motet will be Justorum animae by William Byrd (1543-1623).  On Wednesday, September 11, at the Solemn Requiem Mass, the choir will sing Missa pro defunctis (1605) by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611).  Victoria was a priest and wrote his six-voice (SSATTB) Requiem in 1603 for the funeral of the Dowager Empress Maria, to whom he was chaplain.  The motet at Communion, if needed, is Versa est in luctum, a funeral motet by Victoria.  On Friday, September 13, the Eve of Holy Cross Day, we welcome the Choral Scholars from Princeton, New Jersey, as our visiting choir.  Mr. Geoffrey Williams is director.  They will sing a choral recital at 5:30, featuring works of Lassus, Josquin, Sheppard, Tavener and Taverner.  The Mass ordinary is Missa ‘Osculetur me’ by Orlande de Lassus (1532-1594) and the motets at Communion are Crucifixus à 8 by Antonio Lotti, and Salvator mundi by Thomas Tallis (1505-1585).  The postlude that evening is Fanfare by Percy Whitlock (1903-1946).


NEW TO SAINT MARY’S? . . . Beginning with dinner in the rectory on October 7, we will offer a special series for those wanting to learn more about Saint Mary’s and the Christian faith.  This series continues on October 14, 21, and 28, and will be particularly helpful for those wishing to be baptized or confirmed, as well as others who desire to join the parish.  Confirmation will be celebrated on Friday, November 1, All Saints' Day, at the Solemn Mass at 6:00 PM.  We will offer another series for newcomers in the spring, with confirmation to be celebrated at the Easter Vigil.


The Calendar of the Week

Sunday            The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Monday                      Constance, religious & martyr, & her Companions, martyrs

Tuesday                      Weekday

                                     Solemn Evensong 5:00 PM

Wednesday                For the Departed

                                     Solemn Requiem Mass 12:00 PM

Thursday                    John Henry Hobart, bishop

Friday                         Cyprian, bishop & martyr                                      Abstinence

                                     Eve of Holy Cross Day

                                     Solemn Mass 6:00 PM

Saturday                    Holy Cross Day


The Parish Clergy

The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,

The Reverend Matthew Weiler, curate, The Reverend James Ross Smith, assistant,

The Reverend Amilcar Figueroa, The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priests,

The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.