Last Good Friday, the choir performed a Requiem, and we just got CDs of the performance. I have to say that I was pretty impressed with us. My only criticism is that there are so few of us that it sometimes possible to pick out individual voices. We three tenors, however, miraculously sang as one.
Back when we were rehearsing and when we were singing the piece, I didn't really reflect much on the lyrics. I was absorbed with the complex rhythyms, what with its being a Rutter composition, and the dynamics. Most of the time, we sang softly, and this is always more challenging than belting something out. Since I've listened to the CD, though, I have been haunted by the words.
Requiem aeternam. Dona eis, Domine. Et lux perpetua luceat eis. (Eternal rest give them Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them), and so forth. The part that has been rattling around the most is: "I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord. Whosoever believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." I understand that the very early Church reckoned that Jesus would return in very short order and come into His Kingdom. When members began to die, this was a cause of great concern, and Paul had to assure them that the dead in Christ would be raised. I imagine that this was a significant reimagining of Christianity for a lot of believers back in the day. After all, Jesus said those who believed in Him would never die, and yet Church members continued to die.
What are the mechanics of the afterlife? I've always been led to believe that the dead in Christ "sleep" until the Resurrection of the Body, yet Jesus promised the thief on the cross that he would be with Him in Paradise that very day. And didn't Jesus descend into Hell where he saved the wicked? I'm not sure what I'm supposed to believe at this point. If I "believe" in Jesus hard enough, can I avoid physiological death altogether? What does it mean to "believe"? Are we talking philosophical or psychological "belief"?
My carpool companion has also been obsessing about death, and I have had to explain to him the beliefs that I have and in which I take comfort. Frankly, they aren't as coherent as I had thought. I left it at "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for they rest from their labours." He's a Catholic, so he's used to really lame explanations.
I'm generally OK with leaving things to the realm of the mysterious. I'm not looking for a scientific description of the post-death process. All I know is that I'm supposed to be resurrected at some point and that, if I'm wrong, I won't know about it.