By KEVIN CULVER, Special To The Bulletin | Published October 25, 2012
The Feast of All Souls is Nov. 2, and November is a month traditionally dedicated to remembering ancestors and loved ones who have died. The Cathedral of Christ the King, celebrating its 75th anniversary as a parish, will offer a moving remembrance of all those who have died in a special All Souls’ Day liturgy, featuring music from French composer Maurice Duruflé’s “Requiem.”
On Friday, Nov. 2, at 7:30 p.m., the All Souls’ Day Mass will be celebrated by Cathedral rector Father Frank McNamee, with music by the Cathedral Choir of Christ the King. The choir will be joined by cellist Charae Kruger, and the work’s dazzling organ accompaniment will be played by Cathedral organist Dr. Timothy Wissler. All are invited to attend.
Duruflé, born in 1902, received his early musical training at the Cathedral in Rouen, France, where there was a famous school of Gregorian chant. Not surprisingly, many of his works, including the music for his “Requiem,” use well-known traditional plainsong chant themes as inspiration. Duruflé took these noble melodies and supported them with his own lush harmonies, creating a work of timeless beauty. He also took great care to intertwine the music he had created with the sacred liturgy.
The music, far from being a distraction to the liturgical celebration, serves to heighten and illuminate the impact of the Mass. This “Requiem” setting is significantly different from that of the earlier grand settings of the Mass by Berlioz and Verdi. Its quiet and gentle tone and approach reflects a gentler vision of the texts. The “Requiem,” dedicated to the memory of the composer’s father, is Duruflé’s greatest work and is a testament of faith, comfort and tranquility that is all but unequaled in music.
The Missa Pro Defunctis (Mass for the Dead) is one of the most beautiful and expressive liturgies in the Roman Missal and 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 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 with all the mystery and reverence befitting the occasion and is particularly devoted to all those who have passed away in the last year.
Father McNamee said that “for me, one of the most moving symbols used in the Mass, is the Cathedral’s death registry, which contains the names of all who have been buried from Christ the King since the Cathedral’s dedication.”
He added, “And this year, as the Cathedral parish celebrates its 75th anniversary, it is fitting that this book, with its significant history and memories, takes a central place in the liturgy.”
The prayers and music for this special liturgy are filled with images of eternal rest and perpetual light, and ask more of those who listen than mere reflection on past losses. They encourage all to bring to the present those they have loved and known; to acknowledge their continuing presence in their lives; to pray for them not in the past tense, but in the present and future tenses. The entire diocesan family is encouraged to attend this profound and deeply moving liturgy.