Dies Irae and Khalil Gibran

Way back in the dark ages, people would occasionally request the romantic texts of  extra-Biblical authors for their wedding. There’s no poetry in Saint Paul, they would insist. (Except for 1 Corinthians 13.) Let’s read something really poetic.

My friend Jeffrey Tucker is touting the sequence Dies Irae as music that “which ought to be sung at any Roman Rite funeral.” My comment there is that singing the Dies Irae before the Gospel is like bringing filet mignon to a potluck supper where the host has prepared a nice chicken or fish dish. Or like inviting Khalil Gibran to your wedding. From many perspectives, we’re talking of adding beauty to a significant human and liturgical moment. Can that be wrong?

My own sense is that when placed at the funeral Mass, the Dies Irae functions as something of an anti-eulogy. It would certainly make its point, if translated. And if not, the chant is beautiful, certainly enough to render a limp proclamation of Scripture seem like week-old tuna salad making an appearance at that potluck.

That said, where do old sequences go when they’re no longer liturgical texts? I could see us return to singing sequences for Midnight Mass, Epiphany, the parish dedication anniversary. But not every funeral Mass a parish celebrates. That would violate a sense of progressive solemnity. Aside from post-Communion on the last Sundays of Ordinary Time or the First Sunday of Advent, I don’t have a place for them, do you? Office of Readings? Preludes? Concerts?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Liturgical Music, Liturgy, Order of Christian Funerals. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dies Irae and Khalil Gibran

  1. Liam says:

    Well, the sequences that have been retained in the Graduale and other liturgical books of chant remain liturgical texts that can be used. While the Easter and Pentecost sequences are obligatory, the other 3 sequences are licit options until such time as they are expressly forbidden and/or removed from the Graduale et cet.

  2. John Donaghy says:

    A much more pointed suggestion for the funeral liturgy, I think, is the chant “In paradisum.” I want it sung for my funeral.

    “May the angel lead you to paradise;
    may the martyrs welcome your arrival
    and lead you to the Holy City, Jerusalem.
    May the choir of angles welcome you
    and with Lazarus who was poor
    may you find eternal rest.”

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