About a year ago, I was introduced to a relatively new piece of music called Requiem for the Living, and I was recently re-introduced to it as several my friends were just involved in a performance of it. The Requiem was composed by Dan Forrest, a contemporary American composer. It is one of the most amazing works I’ve ever heard; any attempt of mine to describe it would fall flat – however, at the risk of sounding cliché, I will call it transcendent. There are a couple versions of it on YouTube; I think the performance by the Rivertree Singers is the best. Look it up – it will be 45 minutes well-spent.
This piece breaks some of the traditional “rules” for a requiem. First and foremost, it’s for the living, whereas we generally associate a requiem as being for the dead. The point of a requiem, however, is to pray for the repose of the soul of a deceased person. Forrest has written this piece to be a plea for rest for the living – rest from the pain and suffering that we all, at times, deal with. It also becomes a plea for peace of soul, because too often, our pain and suffering can lead to a crisis of faith. This piece also breaks structural rules, by placing the Agnus Dei before the Sanctus. The reason for doing so is because, when confronted with all this pain and suffering, people need to see the Lamb of God, who died to redeem us, to give us hope. The Sanctus then becomes a response to that: recognition of the Lamb of God leads to understanding that the heavens and earth are full of His glory, and therefore pain and suffering will never have the last word.
There are, I think, parallels to this weekend’s readings here. Jeremiah is prophesying to a people who are suffering, but he reminds them that God is still not done with them and will do greater things for them than what He has already done. The author of the letter to the Hebrews reminds the Church that it was precisely the suffering of Christ that led to eternal salvation for all who obey Him. Even Jesus appears to be troubled at the thought of what is going to happen to him in Jerusalem, yet He undergoes it willingly so that we might have life.
Lent is not to be a time of suffering; the Cross is not meant to be a stumbling block. This is a time of hope and a promise of life. In this waning days of Lent, let us keep our eyes and hearts fixed firmly on the Cross so that we might not be distracted by anything of this world, and so receive the peace and rest our Lord wants to give.
Oremus pro invicem!