Mozart, Faure, Durufle, Verdi, Britten, Berlioz, Dvorak.
When you think of sung Requiem Masses,
these names may come to mind
as great composers
who took the task of writing
the words at music used
at the darkest time
for the bereaved.
Though it does not technically fit the genre,
even the Andrew Lloyd Weber has composed
a modern setting of what he calls the Requiem,
Pie Jesu (gentle Jesus) being the most familiar track.
What may be a less-known Requiem
is the one composed by Johannes Brahms.
This composition does not quite fit the style
of it’s counterparts.
One critic (Ekkehart Kroher) refers to the Requiem of Brahms
as the “Requiem of Consolation”.
Brahms chose to not include
the famous Die Irae,
or Day of Wrath
that most other Requiems include.
This same critic refers to Brahms’ requiem
as the most comforting and humane Requiem ever written.
there is no announcement of a day of terror,
nor a day of judgment.
From a historical perspective,
Brahms stopped working on his Requiem Mass in 1861,
after completing just the first two movements.
the completion of his work did not end
because of his perfectionism nor his lack of spirit.
The resumption of his work began in 1865,
after the death of his mother.
Historians note that at that point he poured his grief
into his work –
largely the instrumental sections of his music.
Brahms’ Requiem appeared to be complete
when it was performed at Vienna in 1867.
However, it was not until its performance in Bremen
on Good Friday of 1868, with additions to the work
gave it far-reaching success.
Brahms was in the audience,
probably the most critical listener there,
and made one additional change by the insertion
of one additional movement.
In 1869, the work was complete!
Brahms had managed to transpose
his own personal grief into music,
allowing it to speak to a universal audience.
His longest major work,
in many ways unique from any other Requiem that we know,
was an eleven-year labor of love.
The closing words of the Requiem
echo the words of the Beatitudes, or blessings.
With only harp and choir the simple word
“Blessed” echoes in repetition.
The birth, development and change of this Requiem
teaches us something about what it means to be a disciple.
This Requiem of Consolation offers us
solace and balm in the midst of all that
confuses us and causes us personal grief.
There is a lesson of tolerance here for all of us.
Jesus was determined to go to Jerusalem
as his days of fulfillment were nearing.
The most direct ways from Galilee to Jerusalem
was straight through Samaria.
Jews avoided the Samaritans,
and Samaritans did everything they could to make taking the direct route difficult.
Old boundaries are difficult to soften, you know.
Even more amazing was the Jesus actually expected
to find hospitality there.
There would, however,
be no reception there
because his destination was Jerusalem.
No hospitality, no consolation would be offered there.
Even the offer of friendship was spurned.
James and John
believed that they were doing the right thing
in offering to help Jesus
by calling down fire from heaven
so that God would smite the inhospitable and destroy the village.
Destroying those who oppose us can be a temptation,
but it’s too easy.
Jesus says a firm “no.”
Often it is easier, more inviting, to go around life’s difficulties.
Jesus preaches in his deeds that we must go through life’s difficulties.
In this teaching Jesus teaches us some important truths
about how to face life’s journeys:
· for the believer the journey is long --
there will be misunderstanding, suffering and death.
· for the follower the journey is nonviolent –
Jesus showed himself to be the example of his own teaching by loving his enemies.
· for the faithful the journey will be difficult –
don’t expect physical comfort or stable residence;
if it’s difficult for the leader, so it may be hard for the followers.
· for the pilgrim the journey will be important –
so important that one may have to forego going to a parent’s funeral.
This is important. Even Elijah allowed Elisha to say goodbye to his parents.
It is sometimes quite easy to view life’s difficulties and struggles
as a time to sing the songs of requiem.
And though we live in a culture which fights with every fiber of our being
to avoid the songs of lament,
there is a time to be saddened about letting go of the past.
keep our hand to the plow and looking forward,
sometimes at any cost,
always brings the opportunity
to see our grief turned into promise and joy.
You know that from your own personal lives.
The loss of what we thought was security
often leads to freedom beyond our imagining.
The sorrow of realizing that what seemed to be ease
was really a burden that is lifted so that we can be more human.
The control that we thought we possessed
was in fact a yoke that kept us from being truly human,
and so truly God-like.
What keeps us moving forward,
what has kept us convinced to keep our hand to the plow,
is our confidence that Christ is the absolute center of our identity.
The truth of the matter is that we don’t know exactly where we are going.
Neither did Elisha.
Neither did James and John.
Neither has anybody who has walked the footsteps of faith.
What we do believe
is that the Lord is with us
in whatever steps we take.
That’s how it has always been.
You don’t have to compose Requiems to know that.
As we sometimes pour our grief into the Church that is always being formed,
we encounter a God who writes a history for us that is compassionate and humane.
We pray that for all the risks we have taken,
and all the risks that have yet to be encountered,
we will be found fit for the kingdom of God.
In this Truth we find our consolation.
So be it.
William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke: The Daily Study Bible Series, p. 129-131.
Richard Donovan, Sermonwriter, July 1, 2007. (www.sermonwriter.com)
Daniel Harrington, “Traveling Time”, America, June 18-25, 2007, p. 39.
Jude Siciliano, First Impressions, July 1. 2007. (www.opsouth.org)
© P. Del Staigers