Published November 1, 2007
The Feast of All Souls is Nov. 2, and November is a month traditionally dedicated to remembering ancestors and loved ones who have died.
Musicians at the Cathedral of Christ the King will once again offer a moving remembrance of the Feast of All Souls in a special liturgy. On Friday, Nov. 2, at 8 p.m., an All Souls Day Mass will be celebrated, featuring music from Gabriel Fauré’s “Requiem.”
All are invited to attend this profound and deeply moving liturgy.
The Solemn Mass will be celebrated by Father Charles Byrd, parochial vicar at Christ the King. Father Byrd was a member of the Cathedral Choir prior to beginning his studies for the priesthood. The Cathedral Choir, under the direction of Cathedral choirmaster Kevin Culver, will be accompanied by a chamber orchestra of harp and strings and Timothy Wissler, Ph.D., the Cathedral’s organist.
“Requiem,” composed in 1888, was significantly different from the two earlier grand settings of the Mass by composers Hector Berlioz and Guiseppe Verdi. The work’s quiet and gentle tone and approach reflected the sensibility of Fauré himself.
For the major portion of his life, Fauré served as a church organist and was for almost 30 years at La Madeleine (L’église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine), one of Paris’s largest churches. He arranged, prepared for and played hundreds of funerals as part of his position—because of this work, the music for his “Requiem” became a reflection of the restrained thoughts of family and friends at these actual burial services.
The composer once said, “My Requiem … has been said to express no fear of death, it even has been called a lullaby of death. But that is how I feel about death: a happy deliverance, a reaching for eternal happiness, rather than a mournful passing. …Perhaps I have sought to depart from what is conventional because for so long I was organist at services of interment. I’m fed up with that doom and darkness. I wanted to do something different.”
Though Fauré’s own mother and father had died within two years of the composition of the “Requiem,” Fauré insisted that he composed the music “for the pleasure of it.” Its first presentation was, as might be expected, for a funeral service, with a concert performance following a few months later. It was also used in 1924 at Fauré’s own funeral Mass.
The Missa Pro Defunctis (Mass for the Dead) is one of the most beautiful and expressive in the Roman Missal and is of 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 second century mention this celebration of the Eucharist.
All Souls Day, the feast for the commemoration of the dead, was instituted by St. Odilo, fourth abbot of the famous Benedictine monastery at Cluny, in 998. In its actual form the Requiem Mass can be traced back to the eighth and ninth centuries. The texts of the Mass, though ancient, continue as vital, living expressions of consolation for the present and hope for the future.
This annual Mass is celebrated at the Christ the King with all the mystery and reverence befitting the occasion and is particularly devoted to all those who have passed away in the last year. One of the most moving symbols, used in procession during the Mass, is the Cathedral’s death registry, dating from 1936 to the present. This book contains the names of all people who have been buried from Christ the King since the Cathedral’s dedication. The prayers and responses of the Mass will also reverberate with the same sense of reverent mystery.
The Mass will be the ordinary form of the Roman rite with the chants and dialogues of the celebrant and assembly being sung.
“While this will not be a Latin Mass as such, this celebration will share some of the same solemnity and beauty of the earlier rites,” noted Culver.
For more information about the All Souls Day Mass at the Cathedral of Christ the King, call (404) 233-2145, extension 470.