Fear and Hope are the twin themes of the “Confutatis and Lacrimosa” from Mozart’s Requiem.

                    The Last Judgment, by Michelangelo, 1536-1541

If thou, O LORD, shouldst mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope . . . (Psalm 130:3-5)


Fear and Hope

     Fear and hope power this short musical piece. While it’s not strictly speaking a Lenten composition, Mozart’s Requiem Mass, which he was still completing at the time of his death, lends itself to the penitential nature of the liturgical season.  This excerpt (“Confutatis and Lacrimosa”), part of the setting for Thomas of Celano’s great hymn Dies Irae, looks ahead to the Final Judgment.  Here, Mozart’s music powerfully complements the words of the hymn: we can almost feel what it’s like to be unworthy sinners approaching the Throne of God to throw ourselves upon his Mercy (which, indeed, we are).

     I didn’t choose the clip below because it is the most polished performance on the web. Instead, I liked the way this ensemble captures Mozart’s vivid dramatization of the struggle between fear and hope. The male voices and the pounding, insistent strings in the “Confutatis” section powerfully evoke our fear of damnation.  The plaintive female voices in the “Lacrimosa” express our hope in God’s mercy and the promise of salvation.

     It’s a short piece.  Take a couple of minutes here in the second week of Lent to meditate on the Drama of Salvation along with one of the great musical masters, Wolfgang Mozart.

Latin and English Text

Confutatis maledictis,
flammis acribus addictis,
voca me cum benedictis.
Oro supplex et acclinis,
cor contritum quasi cinis,
gere curam mei finis.

     When the wicked are confounded,
     and consigned to bitter flames,
     call me among the blessed.
     I pray humble and downcast,
     my heart worn down like ash,
     take up the care of my end.

Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus,
pie Jesu Domine,
dona eis requiem. Amen.

     That day,full of tears,
     when from the ashes shall arise,
     Man, the accused to be judged.
     Have mercy on him, therefore, O God,
     faithful Lord Jesus,
     grant them eternal rest. Amen

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