Requiem aeternam

Requiem Aeternam (2015)

For SATB choir, piano and organ
Written for the project “Amsterdams Requiem”
Commissioned by NEON choir and the Orgelpark, Amsterdam.
First performance on the 25th of April 2015 in the Orgelpark, Amsterdam.

Text composition Zeger Polhuijs & Tom Schipper
Hebrew and Greek transcriptions Maarten Labooy
Hebrew assistance Amit Gur
Greek assistance Nicholas Papadimitriou
Sources English New International Version (NIV)
Hebrew Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS)
Greek Novum Testamentum Gaece (NA 28)

“Grant them eternal rest, oh Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them”.

The original requiem text has been set to music, or sung during the traditional requiem mass many times. It has been used to mourn the dead, to ask God to give the dead rest after their passing; to have His light shining on them, when they are with Him, and not on this world any more. It is a prayer for those who have passed away.
But should we just stress this meaning of the text? Should we just mourn the dead, or can we also celebrate life? Can rest or eternal light (read: life) be granted when we are still breathing and fully alive?
I think, as a Christian, that this message can be applied to the living as well. The eternal life starts now, when it is not me who lives, but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). The death that has been spoken of is not only the “physical” death thats inevitable for all of us, but also the death to sin.
There are multiple passages of Scripture which tell us that God grants rest and protection to those who trust Him. If we choose to accept His son as our Savior, who died for us on the cross, we have already been given the eternal life.
This death to sin, which is more “spiritual” in nature, is hidden in the original requiem text. It is implied, but often overlooked in the context of its usage, which is a shame in my opinion.
In “Requiem Aeternam”, the original text from the “Introit” is first presented in its original setting; at the start of a piece, mass or program, and implied to concern the “physical” death. In a collection of Bible verses, the connection is made to the “spiritual” meaning, which tells us that we are alive in Christ, and that the eternal life starts now. He died on the cross for all of us; he has overcome death and is the (eternal) light to all mankind (John 1:4-5). Rest can also be found in life. The “Introit” text is finally presented again, which now carries this “spiritual” meaning alongside the original one.
Death is a difficult subject for all of us. I think that if we juxtapose it with our thoughts about life, we can come at peace with the inevitable. Eternal life has already been given to us. Now it’s our turn to accept it.

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