|Mozart's Requiem - the original manuscript|
This evening witnessed one of the most profound moments of my entire life. I beheld, in an immediate and very real way, the height of human civilization. I also tasted the eternal and awe-inspiring nature of our Catholic liturgy, made manifest in that way which makes it the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven. Where had I been, and what had I seen and heard? Well, I had attended the Brompton Oratory's Solemn Mass for All Souls, set to the orchestral version of Mozart's Requiem.
I go to the Oratory often, weekly in fact. Like many others, I am well aware that this church offers a liturgical standard that is rarely, if ever, found anywhere else in the world. I also know that the Oratory's Choir is amongst the best in the land. Of course, along with most men and women, I am familiar, too, with Mozart's Requiem - his religious master-piece, which was finished by Franz Xaver Süssmayr. It has inspired me since my youth. But, the combination of liturgical excellence and one of the finest musical compositions the world has ever heard meant that tonight even the Oratory's surpassed itself.
Until this evening, I had never heard Mozart's Requiem in the setting that it was intended to be performed. It is hard to imagine a better setting than the London Oratory on All Souls' Day! Although I thought that a combination of Catholic liturgy (as it is meant to be) and Mozart's work of pure genius would move me, little did I realise how profound and disturbing this evening's Mass would be. I still cannot speak, and haven't uttered a word for the past three hours! I am, to coin a phrase, utterly lost for words. My heart is groaning with tears of pure and undiluted joy, whilst (like some madman) real tears of love and gratitude have been running down my cheeks all evening.
|The Brompton Oratory|
It is a shame that Masses set to Mozart's Requiem are rare nowadays. Nothing can ever compare to hearing this majestic piece of music in a church, whilst candles flicker in the dark, the pious kneel, wonderful paintings of Christ and the saints surround the congregation, and the people meditate on the Lord truly present on the altar's sacred mountain. No concert hall can compete with that, just as no ad lib 1970s folk Mass can compare with the Holy Sacrifice as it is meant to be celebrated. Is it any wonder, then, that at one point during this evening's Mass, I seemed to see millions of holy souls pouring into Heaven as Jesus Christ was made present? For sure, Heaven was palpably close tonight... and a foretaste of things to come was given to all who had ears to hear and eyes to see.
[Images: 1 A section of a page from the manuscript of W.A. Mozart's Requiem, K 626. (1791), showing Mozart's heading for the first movement; source: Wikimedia Commons. 2 The Brompton Oratory by UserFA2010; published under a creative commons licence; source: Wikimedia Commons]