Now that we have entered the month of November, it is appropriate that our minds turn to things such as death and the end of the world as the days grow dark and trees and plants undergo a sort of death in the hope of rising again in spring. The old Mass for November 2, All Souls’ Day, gives us something to dwell on, especially the sequence, Dies Irae (The Day of Wrath). It is unsettling and even frightening, but that is what we need often to push us towards preparing ourselves for that day when the world will be dissolved into ashes and the divine Judge will appear to whom all must give an account. In this video (6 minute) we hear this sequence sung in Gregorian Chant. Be sure to activate the closed caption (CC) to view the English translation.
This descending melody can be found everywhere such as in movies especially in moments when the idea of death is present. This chant has indeed had an influence even outside of its religious context. This video (6 minutes) explains this point well.
English, then the Latin text below.
Lord, have mercy on us and on the souls in purgatory.
Day of wrath and doom impending.
David’s word with Sibyl’s blending!
Heaven and earth in ashes ending!
O, what fear man’s bosom rendeth,
When from heav’n the Judge descendeth,
On whose sentence all dependeth!
Wondrous sound the trumpet flingeth,
Through earth’s sepulchers it ringeth,
All before the throne it bringeth.
Death is struck, and nature quaking,
All creation is awaking,
To its Judge an answer making.
Lo! the book exactly worded,
Wherein all hath been recorded:
Thence shall judgments be awarded.
When the Judge his seat attaineth,
And each hidden deed arraigneth,
Nothing undisclos’d remaineth.
What shall I, frail man, be pleading?
Who for me be interceding,
When the just are mercy needing?
King of majesty tremendous,
Who dost free salvation send us,
Fount of pity then befriend us!
Think, kind Jesu! my salvation
Caused thy wondrous Incarnation;
Leave me not to reprobation.
Faint and weary thou hast sought me,
On the Cross of suff’ring bought me;
Shall such grace be vainly brought me?
Rightous Judge! for sin’s pollution
Grant thy gift of absolution,
Ere that day of retribution.
Guilty, now I pour my moaning,
All my shame with anguish owning:
Spare, O God, thy suppliant groaning!
Through the sinful woman shriven,
Through the dying thief forgiven,
Thou to me a hope hast given.
Worthless are my prayers and sighing,
Yet, good Lord, in grace complying,
Rescue me from night undying.
With thy sheep a place provide me,
From the goats afar divide me,
To thy right hand do thou guide me.
When the wicked are confounded,
Doom’d to shame and woe unbounded,
Call me, with thy Saints surrounded.
Low I kneel, with heart’s submission;
See, like ashes my contrition!
Help me in my last condition!
Ah! that day of tears and mourning!
From the dust of earth returning.
Man for judgement must prepare him:
Spare, O God, in mercy spare him!
Lord, all pitying, Jesu blest,
Grant them thine eternal rest. Amen.
Dies iræ, dies illa,
Solvet sæclum in favilla:
Teste David cum Sibylla.
Quantus tremor est futurus,
Quando Iudex est venturus,
Cuncta stricte discussurus!
Tuba, mirum spargens sonum
Per sepulchra regionum,
Coget omnes ante thronum.
Mors stupebit, et natura,
Cum resurget creatura,
Liber scriptus proferetur,
In quo totum continetur,
Unde mundus iudicetur.
Iudex ergo cum sedebit,
Quidquid latet, apparebit:
Nil inultum remanebit.
Quid sum miser tunc dicturus?
Quem patronum rogaturus,
Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Rex tremendæ maiestatis,
Qui salvandos salvas gratis,
Salva me, fons pietatis.
Recordare, Iesu pie,
Quod sum causa tuæ viæ:
Ne me perdas illa die.
Quærens me, sedisti lassus:
Redemisti Crucem passus:
Tantus labor non sit cassus.
Iuste Iudex ultionis,
Donum fac remissionis
Ante diem rationis.
Ingemisco, tamquam reus:
Culpa rubet vultus meus:
Supplicanti parce, Deus.
Qui Mariam absolvisti,
Et latronem exaudisti,
Mihi quoque spem dedisti.
Preces meæ non sunt dignæ:
Sed tu bonus fac benigne,
Ne perenni cremer igne.
Inter oves locum præsta,
Et ab hædis me sequestra,
Statuens in parte dextra.
Flammis acribus addictis,
Voca me cum benedictis.
Oro supplex et acclinis,
Cor contritum quasi cinis:
Gere curam mei finis.
Lacrimosa dies illa,
Qua resurget ex favílla
Iudicandus homo reus:
Huic ergo parce, Deus:
Pie Iesu Domine,
Dona eis requiem. Amen.