Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Requiem Eternam

A friend at work, James D. Findlay, is tutoring me in biblical Hebrew. He used to write and edit for The Other Side magazine.

When I told him about Nancy Hardesty's death, he said he would add her to his prayer list.

"But why?" I asked him. "She's with God now. She's no longer in pain."

He explained that he still prays for people he loves who have departed; in his morning prayers with his wife, they mention names of specific persons, living and dead.

"I can see that praying to them, asking their support, would be good for us," I answered. "But do you think it benefits them in some way? How can that be?"

After a bit of arguing, I conceded that connecting to them in prayer each morning might have some benefit to them as well as to us, but I wasn't convinced.

On Palm Sunday, however, at the end of the service, the choir sang a piece from Mozart's Requiem:

Re-e-quiem eternam dona eis. (Give them eternal rest).

I thought of Nancy, of course. The music was so beautiful with the tender emphasis on the first syllable of requiem. I could hear one human longing for, turning to God in trust for, the peaceful rest of the other after suffering, whether a painful illness or a sudden death.

I felt that longing, that deep stirring of prayer for Nancy. Asking God to give her eternal rest felt completely appropriate.

After all, I said to myself, those words have been sung in the church for centuries. Persons wise than I must have had their reasons.

And besides, I realized, praying for requiem eternam for another expresses my own deep desire to rest in the full presence of God.

We lead such turbulent lives, but we have moments of rest and occasions of reflection that cause us to seek God's presence.

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