Daily Archives: November 2, 2016

Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus: A Requiem Sonnet for All Souls Day

Mozart's requiemIf there is ever a moment when the veil is thin, when, as we come close to Christ, we come close to those who are alive in Christ, then it is when we sing the Sanctus in Communion. As the liturgy says:

‘Therefore with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of Heaven we laud and magnify thy glorious name evermore praising thee and saying: Holy, Holy, Holy…

Here we consciously echo the song of the angels as Isaiah heard it, and for a moment, by grace of the sursum corda, the lifting up of our hearts, we sing for a moment, not only with the angels, but with those whom we have loved and see no longer, those with whom we are still bound together in the communion of saints. This is why the setting of the Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, the Holy, Holy, Holy, in any Requiem is especially poignant. Such music must have an element of yearning and longing, since we sing for those we have lost,  and since all the best and even the most joyful of the songs of the earth have that elegiac note of exile and yearning for home, but it must also have an element of joy and mystery, since it echoes the joy and music of Heaven. The great Sanctus in Mozart’s final Requiem seems to me to combine these two qualities in music of heart-breaking beauty.

So here, for the feast, is a sonnet which was originally composed about the experience of listening to Mozart’s Requiem at Greenbelt in 2001,as I took leave of good friends, and now has its place, slightly adapted and re-titled ‘Sanctus’, as the final poem in my book Sounding the Seasons. I post it again for all those who need, in this season of remembrance, the quickening touch of the Sanctus

Mozart at Greenbelt

We lie upon the grass on God’s good earth
and listen to the Requiem’s intense,
long, love-laden keening, calling forth
echoes of Eden, blessing every sense
with brimming blisses, every death with birth,
until all passion passes into praise.

I bless the winding paths that brought us here,
I bless this day, distinct amidst our days,
I bless the light, the music-laden air,
I bless the interweaving of our ways,
the lifting of the burdens that we bear,
I bless the broken body that we share

Sanctus the heart, Sanctus the spirit cries,
Sanctus the flesh in every touch replies


Filed under christianity, Poems