(Domine, de morte aeterna, etc.).
The responsory sung at
funerals. It is a responsory of redundant form, having two versicles
("Tremens factus sum" and "Dies illa"). As in all the Office for the
Dead, the verse "Requiem aeternam" takes the place of "Gloria Patri";
then all the first part, down to the first versicle, is repeated.
Itsform therefore is exceptional, considerably longer than the normal
responsory. It is a prayer in the first person singular for mercy at
the Last Day. This should no doubt be understood as a dramatic
substitution; the choir speaks for the dead person. A great part of our
Office for the Dead is made up of such prayers about the Last Day, the
meaning of which appears to refer rather to the people who say them
than to the dead (the sequence "Dies irae", most of the Vespers,
Matins, and Lauds).
substitution is involved in the prayers of this responsory (and
throughout the Office for the Dead) that the person for whom we pray
may be saved from hell. That question was settled irrevocably as soon
as he died. This is one instance of the dramatic displacement or
rearrangement of the objective order of things that occurs continually
in all rites (compare for instance in the baptism service the white
robe and shining light given after the essential form, in the
ordination of priest the power to forgive sins given after the man has
been ordained and has concelebrated, the Epiclesis in Eastern
liturgies, etc.). The explanation of all these cases is the same. Since
we cannot express everything at one instant, we are forced to act and
speak as if things really simultaneous followed each other in order.
And in the eternity of God all things (including our consecutive
prayers) are present at once -- nunc stans aeternitas. The responsory
"Libera me" is begun by a cantor and continued by the choir in the
usual way (the cantor alone singing the versicles) at the beginning of
the "Absolution", that is the service of prayers for the dead person
said and sung by the bier immediately after the Mass for the Dead. As
soon as Mass is over the celebrant exchanges his chasuble for a (black)
cope (all the sacred ministers of course take off their maniples) and
chants the prayer "Non intres in judicium". Then "Libera me" is sung.
Meanwhile the celebrant puts incense into the thurible, assisted by the
deacon. During the whole Absolution the subdeacon stands at the head of
the bier, facing the altar, with the processional cross.
The ninth responsory of
Matins for the Dead also begins with "Libera me", but continues a
different text (Domine, de viis inferni, etc.). This is built up
according to the usual arrangement (with "Requiem aeternam" instead of
"Gloria Patri"). But on All Souls' Day (2 November), and whenever the
whole Office of nine lessons is said, the "Libera me" of the Absolution
is substituted for it. The Vatican Gradual gives the new chant for the
"Libera me" after the Mass for the Dead.
Written by Adrian Fortescue. Transcribed by Michael T. Barrett. Dedicated to the Poor Souls in Purgatory
The Catholic Encyclopedia,
Volume IX. Published 1910. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil
Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M.
Farley, Archbishop of New York