Saturday, February 23, 2013

Vichnaja Pamjat' on the Dies Irae (Eternal Memory on the Day of Wrath)


In the Byzantine Christian tradition, today is an All Souls Saturday.  Instead of the one Feast of All Souls in the Roman Church, the Byzantine Christians have 5 main All Souls Saturdays (depending on the exact tradition, there may be more), one during Meatfare Week (one of the pre-Lenten weeks), three during Lent itself, and one on the day before Pentecost.  Today is the 2nd All Souls Saturday of the year, and to help inspire others to join in that prayer of vichnaja pamjat' (eternal memory) for those who have fallen asleep, I have decided to post a bit on one of my favorite pieces of music: Giuseppe Verdi's Requiem (which I have written some about before).

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) was an Italian composer, notably of operas, and an atheist, yet when his good friend Roman Catholic novelist Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873) (famous for The Betrothed) died, he decided to write a musical setting of the Requiem Mass, the Mass for the Dead.  Above is my favorite section of the work, the beginning of the Dies Irae, a sequence written by Thomas of Celano (1200-1265), first biographer of St. Francis of Assisi, a sequence that portrays the Day of Judgment with its attendant terror.  Below is another piece of the sequence illustrating the penitent's plea for salvation.  I encourage you to find the work and listen to it, but above all, I urge you to pray for all the souls of those fallen asleep, both those we know were servants of God and those whose faith was known by none but God.

Vichnaya pamjat', vichnaja pamjat', blazennyj pokoj; vichnaja pamjat'.
Eternal memory, eternal memory, blessed repose, and eternal memory.

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