Dies Irae

November, 2, 2014

Clouds of incense parted, the two priests sat down, embroidered designs on their vestments gleaming gold and silver against a field of black. At the right podium, stood a lector in black cassock and surplice, a solemn and manly expression on his set lips. From behind me, the organ belched out the tell-tale beginning tone of the ancient chant: “Dies Irae”. In a display of uncontrollable excitement, I flashed a thumbs-up to Leo who sat besides me. This would be the very first time I heard Dies Irae during the Mass. Belonging to the requiem Masses of the old, Tridentine Rite, this somber hymn telling of when the dead would rise and be judged by Christ coming on high. had disappeared. It sounded sad, terrifying but triumphant, like light pouring from the east and striking every dark place of the earth, like a just judge sitting atop the clouds, closing his last book.

I closed my eyes, picturing open graves with the dead rising. I imagined Jesus upon his cherubim throne in kingly splendor, a crown adorning his head, his white robes blindingly bright, flanked by a great multitude of angels and saints, holding aloft red torches. Our Lord’s hands were open, saying in silence, “Do not fear, come to me.” He commanded and they drew near. I felt him commanding me.

Time passed by, the song continued, wrapping me up in its lush imagery of Jesus separating the sheep and the goats, many spirits floating about the hazy skies, the gates of heaven and the netherworld opened wide. Opening my eyes, gazing at the quiet tabernacle, I prayed: “Jesus, please place me in your kingdom.” Verily as the haze parted, I felt within His kingdom today. Here something beautiful waited for me. I dared not miss it.

fr holiday


One thought on “Dies Irae

  1. Right behind Corpus Christi, All Souls’ requiem Mass is my favorite. It is such a great “keep it real” Mass. One day, I will be in that box.


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