On October 14 our choir at First United Methodist Church in Waynesville, North Carolina, presented six movements of the beloved Requiem by Gabriel Fauré as the heart of a service of worship. Scott Taylor, our Director of Music and the Worship Arts, asked me to compose poetry to introduce each movement in order to ground this classic text and music in the lived experience of worshippers. I included one piece that I wrote some eight years ago as well as a recent unreleased poem with those written for this occasion. I also composed a prayer at the conclusion. The Scripture, Hebrews 11:8-16, begins at 18:30, the Introduction to the Requiem begins at 20:30 and the poems and Requiem begin at 26:30.
Here are my poems as well as the text for the Requiem, which is available in many recordings.
Prologue I: (Introitus — Kyrie)
Our ship so safe, secure, a world lashed down,
Now shudders in the storm,
Washed with waves, roiling in the foam.
The clouds that shroud the beacon’s light,
The rain that pounds upon the rocks
Now soak us to the bone.
We steer by signals felt, not seen,
Strain to shores unknown.
Awed by the Life beyond our life
Help us pray and row
to the last beating of our hearts,
Be heard and known by the Creator of the sea,
Be seen and rescued by the God of light.
Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Te decet hymnus, Deus in Sion
et tibi reddetur votum in Jerusalem.
Exaudi orationem mean, ad te omnis caro veniet.
Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison.
(Rest eternal give them, Lord,
and let light always shine on them.
We sing you hymns, God in Zion, and turn our hearts to you in Jerusalem. Hear my prayer, to you all flesh will come.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.)
Prologue II: (Sanctus)
A single thread
in the cloth bag
holding our treasures
Our glistening marbles,
photographs of younger smiles,
journals of our inward thoughts,
the widening tear.
if loving hands will catch us.
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt coeli et terra gloria tua.
Hosanna in excelsis.
(Holy Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.)
Prologue III: (Pie Jesu)
At the end as at the beginning
we come to you as little children,
wobbling like bewildered toddlers
across a vast and alien land.
O, give us your hand,
give us something for our tongues to taste,
our mouths to chew,
Though our eyes may weep,
let us see through the Stygian waters of loss
to the rainbow on your mountain heights.
Pie Jesu, Domine. Dona eis requiem.
Dona eis requiem sempiternam requiem.
(Merciful Jesus, Lord, give them rest.
Give them rest, eternal rest.)
Prologue IV: (Agnus Dei)
So many sacrifices brought us to this place.
Our way lies not through gleaming streets of happiness
but through stony roads in fearful darkness and distress.
Can not the blood of sacrifices past transfuse our veins
and bring new life from death?
Cannot the light the martyrs saw
illuminate our stumbling way?
All the gaudy trumpets of this world
are but a clamorous cacophony
before the great tranquility
of the sabbath yet to come.
At the end we find a meadowland of peace
beyond the chasm of our death.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
done eis requiem.
Lux aeterna luceat eis, Domine,
Cum sanctis tuis in aeternum,
quia pies es.
Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine,
et lux perpetua luceat eis.
(Lamb of God, who bears the sins of the world, give them rest.
Let light shine upon them, Lord,
with your saints for eternity,
for you are merciful.
Give them eternal rest, Lord,
and may perpetual light shine upon them.)
Prologue V: (Libera Me)
The power of creation is the power of destruction.
The light that guides us on our way can blind us,
its heat can blast the atom’s nucleus,
incinerate us into dust,
leaving only light itself,
the heart of God.
Is there then no place that truly
we can call our home?
God’s longing for our liberation
sears us all,
burns away our falsehoods,
shatters our illusions,
re-creates the image of God’s wisdom
in our souls,
Leads us to a home beyond our fearful wanderings.
Libera me, Domine, de morte aeterna in die illa tremenda
quando coeli movendi sunt et terra
dum veneris judicare saeculum per ignem.
Tremens factus sum ego et timeo
dum discussio venerit atque ventura ira.
Dies illa, dies irae, calamitatis et miseriae,
dies illa, dies magna et amara valde.
(Liberate me, Lord, from death eternal on that terrible day
when the heavens and earth shall be shaken,
when you come to judge the world with fire.
I tremble with fear
before the coming angry trial,
That day, that day of anger, of calamity and misery, that day, that day of great and exceeding bitterness.)
Prologue VI: (In Paradisum)
It is enough to know
A universe of galaxies resplendent with creative power—
A rainbow reconciling every ecstasy of color—
A meal that satisfies the need of every living being—
A work that binds up shattered limbs and lives—
A mind that numbers every star and grain of sand—
A tree whose limbs are birds, whose roots are fingers of divinity—
A love that pours its hope through steep ravines of grief—
A life completed in the mercy of our finitude—
Yes, There’s More.
“There’s more,” the subtle body spoke,
and then became the More.
In Paradisum deducant Angeli
in tuo adventu suscipiant te Martyres
et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Jerusalem.
Chorus Angelorum te suscipiat
et cum Lazaro quondam paupere
aeternum habeas requiem.
(May Angels draw you into Paradise.
May the martyrs receive you when you come
and lead you into the holy city of Jerusalem.
May the chorus of Angels receive you
and with Lazarus, once a beggar, may you have eternal rest.)