Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Requiem aeternam

On Tuesday night I went to the Opera House (no prizes for this pic!) to hear a variety of organ and choir music featuring Duruflé's Requiem. I've often been attracted to requiem pieces before (heard Mozart's a few years ago, also in the SOH and own a few CDs, including Duruflé's). On Tuesday night I was struck by the most obvious feature of the entire experience: the repeated (and then repeated and repeated again for good measure) supplication: Requiem aeternam dona eis - 'Grant them eternal rest'.

Now leaving aside the whole prayers for the dead thing, it got me thinking about 'rest' as a category of biblical hope. Certainly it has ample scriptural warrant as a prominent OT theme (e.g. Gen 2.1-3; Ex 20.8-11, 33.14; Josh 21.44; 1 Kings 5.4; Ps 95.11) picked up in the NT (Matt 11.28-29; Heb 4.1-11). But when is rest? Are the faithful dead already at rest? Certainly the common gravestone acronym 'R.I.P.' seems to assume those who now sleep in the dust are at rest. But are they not also waiting, like the, er, rest of us, for the resurrection of the dead?

But back to requiems: does anyone know what the Roman Catholic position is on this matter? Are the faithful departed for whom the requiem is said/sung already assumed to have entered their rest, or is the requiem a prayer for the successful navigation of the final judgement such that requiem aeternam is achieved?


Mandy said...

At TBT in the Cathedral on Sunday night Phillip Jensen preached on Rom 5:1-10 and he indicated that a Christian would not have 'rest in peace' on their headstone, for that is a prayer that indicates uncertainty as to what has happened to them in death. Rather he argued that a Christian can have boldly proclaimed on their tombstone 'at peace' for we know that we are at peace with God through Jesus. (This may be a misrepresentation: I had only arrived back in the country on Sat am, so any error of interpretation is attributed to jetlag).

But I think the thrust of what he said picks up on the idea that those who die in Christ already in paradise? Surely this is why Paul can say that it is better by far to die than to go on living?

byron smith said...

What about 'resting in peace' - a comment rather than a supplication?

Though my point was wondering whether the 'rest' for which we're hoping is at death or after the end of the 'restlessness' of the period in which death rules. Is even being in 'paradise' or the 'with Christ, which is better by far' to be equated with the sabbath-rest of the people of God?

...and welcome back! :-)

Mandy said...

I think we are in agreement - for a christian, death is not the end. Could we say that a christian still hopes in death, because the renewal of all things is not yet realised?

And as a correction to the earlier comment, he preached on 5:1-11.

Drew said...

I think it was this question that I was getting at when I asked you about the 1st (and 2nd) resurrection in Revelation. That is, is there some kind of rest, provisional even, prior to and still in anticipation of the new creation for those who die in Christ before it is fulfilled?

Apologies for the convolution!

byron smith said...

is there some kind of rest, provisional even, prior to and still in anticipation of the new creation for those who die in Christ before it is fulfilled?

Well, Jesus tells the dying thief that today he will be 'in paradise' (Lk 23), which seems to imply some kind of garden in which to rest, though this isn't necessarily the final state - we know this because it wasn't the final state for Jesus, who was there awaiting his resurrection. Furthermore, Paul speaks of being 'with Christ', being 'absent from the body, present with the Lord' (Phil 1), which again is not the ultimate hope (which is to be 'clothed again' (2 Cor 5)), but does seem to be a 'nice' outcome. Not quite sure how to relate the language of 'rest' to these considerations.

Mister Tim said...

Completely away from the serious theological discussion, if you like a good Requiem - I enjoyed Preisner's Requiem for My Friend (for Krzysztof Kieslowski who did the Three Colours movies, for which Preisner was the composer).

Not a requiem, but in a similar vein I really love Gorecki's Symphony of Sorrowoful Songs (Symphony 3).

Sam Charles Norton said...

I have a soft spot for the Faure.

As far as I understand it, the Requiem combines commendation and supplication (ie we give them to God, we ask God to take care of them).

BTW loved your piccie 'good not the enemy...)

byron smith said...

Thanks Sam. And thanks - it was taken on Boxing Day from Watsons Bay looking back at Sydney CBD.