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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dies Irae

In preparation for the forthcoming celebration of All Souls' Day and the Solemn Requiem Mass on November 3rd at St. Stephen's, we'd like to share with you one of the Church's most beautiful liturgical chants, a famous thirteenth century Latin hymn. The poem describes the day of judgment, the last trumpet summoning souls before the throne of God, where the saved will be delivered and the unsaved cast into eternal flames. It is that day of wrath, Dies Iræ.

Dies Iræ is reknown for it use as a sequence in Holy Mass, which occurs after the epistle and just before the Gospel.

A major inspiration of the hymn seems to have come from the Vulgate translation of Zephaniah 1:15–16:

Dies iræ, dies illa, dies tribulationis et angustiæ, dies calamitatis et miseriæ, dies tenebrarum et caliginis, dies nebulæ et turbinis, dies tubæ et clangoris super civitates munitas et super angulos excelsos.
That day is a day of wrath, a day of tribulation and distress, a day of calamity and misery, a day of darkness and obscurity, a day of clouds and whirlwinds, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high bulwarks. (Douai Bible)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Guide to Latin Prayers: Lesson 01 - Signum Crucis

The Sign of the Cross

We begin our Guide to Latin Prayers with the Signum Crucis (SEE-nyoom KROO-chees). Catholics, since ancient times, have made the Signum Crucis at the beginning and ending of prayers. The Signum Crucis is so important that we even begin the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with It.

This Guide to Latin Prayers uses ecclesiastical Latin pronunciation. The syllables in capital letters represent where the stress in the word is. Let's begin.

Touching the fingers of our right hand to our head, we say:

In nomine Patris
(een  NOH-mee-nay  PAH-trees)

Before we move on, let's address a quick consonant pronunciation note. The Latin consonant S always sounds like the S in the English word house, and never like the S in hose.

Next we move our hand down to the middle of our breast and, touching it, we say:

et Filii
(eht  FEE-lee-ee)

Finally, we place our hand on our left shoulder and move it to our right shoulder, and say while doing so:

et Spiritus Sancti
(eht  SPEAR-ee-toos  SAHNC-tee)

Many people have the custom of finishing the Signum Crucis by saying Amen and folding their hands.

This concludes the first lesson. Practice often.