Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why was this removed from Masses for the Dead?

I had the good fortune to be able to celebrate my first Mass for the Holy Souls today privately in the Extraordinary Form in the Cathedral Crypt. (My second was the 12.10 at the Cathedral and my third will be at Big Bay this evening.) As I was reciting the Offertory, I couldn't help wondering why such a beautiful prayer is no longer offered for our good friends the souls in Purgatory. Here it is:

O Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory,
deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hell
and from the deep pit:
deliver them from the lion's mouth,
that hell may not swallow them up,
and may they not fall into darkness;
may Thy holy standard-bearer, Michael,
lead them into the holy light;
* which Thou didst promise to Abraham and his seed.
V/. We offer to Thee, O Lord,
sacrifices and prayers:
do Thou receive them in behalf of those souls
whom we commemorate this day.
Grant them, O Lord,
to pass from death unto life;
* which Thou didst promise to Abraham and to his seed.

The prayer seems strangely inclusive, even daring to pray not only for speedy purification through Purgatory but the avoidance of hell of those who have departed.

I always find the 2 Machabees (12: 43-46) reading about Judas Machabeus (one of my favourites for funerals) strangely challenging on this point. Judas sent money for sacrifices to be offered that those dead soldiers who were found to have placed their trust in trinkets or charms rather than in God might be loosed from their sins.

The Church in its ancient liturgy seems incredibly daring and generous in its prayers for mercy to be shown on the departed, our brothers and sisters, without of course falling into any sense of universalism. There is a deep sense of solidarity and extraordinary charity, desiring that not one of the Lord's flock be lost. (Jn 6:37-40)

One might also wonder why the Dies Irae was expugned from the revised liturgy, with its beautiful cry:

What shall I, frail man, be pleading
Who for me be interceding,
when the just are mercy needing?

Yes, the faithful departed are justified, but who remembers their suffering in purgatory? The forgotten Souls in Purgatory ask you, ask me: who will intercede for me?

I see Father Blake has similar thoughts.


  1. The sequence Dies irae was originally composed for the Sunday Next before Advent--in other words, the last Sunday of the Western liturgical year.

  2. Dies Irae is so beautiful. I wish it would make a comeback.


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