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Libera Me

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Libera Me is a Roman Catholic responsory that is sung in the Office of the Dead and at the absolution of the dead, a service of prayers for the dead said by the coffin immediately after the Requiem Mass and before burial. The text of Libera Me asks God to have mercy upon the deceased person at the Last Judgement. In addition to the Gregorian chant in the Roman Gradual, many composers have written settings for the text, including Gabriel Fauré and Maurice Duruflé.

Libera me, Domine, de morte aeterna, in die illa tremenda:
Quando caeli movendi sunt et terra.
Dum veneris judicare saeculum per ignem.
Tremens factus sum ego, et timeo, dum discussio venerit, atque ventura ira.
Quando caeli movendi sunt et terra.
Dies illa, dies irae, calamitatis et miseriae, dies magna et amara valde.
Dum veneris judicare saeculum per ignem.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat eis.
Deliver me, O Lord, from death eternal on that fearful day,
when the heavens and the earth shall be moved,
when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.
I am made to tremble, and I fear, till the judgment be upon us, and the coming wrath,
when the heavens and the earth shall be moved.
That day, day of wrath, calamity, and misery, day of great and exceeding bitterness,
when thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.
Rest eternal grant unto them, O Lord: and let light perpetual shine upon them.

Libera Me is begun by a cantor, who sings the versicles alone, and the responses are sung by the choir. The text is written in the first person singular, "Deliver me, O Lord, from eternal death on that fearful day," a dramatic substitution in which the choir speaks for the dead person.

Libera Me, like many other prayers from the Office for the Dead, asks that the person prayed for may be saved from hell. However, the question of whether or not the person was sent to hell was settled irrevocably as soon as he or she died at the particular judgment. This dramatic displacement and rearrangement of the objective order of events is employed because liturgical texts cannot express everything at one instant. Instead, the text is written as if simultaneous events followed each other in order.[1] Likewise, while Libera Me asks God to have mercy at the Last Judgement, the fate of a person at the Last Judgement has already been determined at the particular judgment immediately at death. At the Last Judgement, all souls in heaven remain in heaven; all souls in purgatory go to heaven, and all souls in limbo and hell will remain there eternally.

Prior to the reform of the Roman Missal by Pope Paul VI, Libera Me was also said on All Souls' Day (2 November) and whenever all three nocturns of Matins of the Dead were recited. On other occasions, the ninth responsory of Matins for the Dead began with "Libera me", but continued a different text (Domine, de viis inferni, etc.).


This article incorporates text from the entry Libera Me in Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.

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