Before Christ the King's magnificent return, a sign will arise in the sky. The dead will awaken as angelic trumpets sound. Souls that wait patiently in expectation will rejoice and enter heavenly rest. Those who reject God will scream in terror as they burn in the eternal fires.
"Dies Irae" (Day of Wrath), described as "a musical jewel even without the music" and "the giant among hymns," was written by Thomas of Celano, St. Francis of Assisi's companion and first biographer. It was first written in Latin and has been translated hundreds of times into numerous languages. It is recognized as one of the greatest masterpieces of Western poetry, even by secular specialists.
Msgr. Nicholaus Gihr explains Dies Irae: The Sequence of the Mass for the Dead in this reissue of his famous work for devotional reading and meditation. Although we do not know when the world will end and the last judgement will take place, each soul will face a specific judgement upon death. Msgr. Gihr grandiloquently muses on the beauty and insights of this renowned lyric poetry and chant, allowing the reader to dwell on the soul's final journey in a way that is both convicting and inspiring, drawing from the Bible, the Liturgy of the Church, and the works of the saints. Msgr. Gihr's comments both challenge and encourage us; in the midst of anguish and suffering, his words both comfort and uplift.
As “the Day” draws near, Rev. Gihr encourages readers to:
- keep watch, as in Advent, and cast off sloth
- fulfill even the smallest duties with intentionality
- guard against idle conversations and indifference
- reflect upon the things of Heaven
- remember that thoughts, actions, and inactions will be revealed
- repent, serve the poor, and show and receive God’s mercy
- abandon lukewarmness, pray for others, fast, and do penance
- adore in fear and trembling now
- ask the intercession of Our Lady, the angels, and the saints now … to enjoy their friendship later!
Dies Irae reminds us that the future of the just is hopeful, since God will re-create the earth and transform our lowly bodies into glorified bodies. Although the day of reckoning must inspire a just and reverential fear, by living virtuously we can await the coming of our Good Shepherd with joy and hope.