What is a Requiem?

The Mass

The mass is the celebration of the sacrament of the Eucharist or Lord's Supper, and is the chief act of Roman Catholic worship. Generally it is performed daily by every priest, as a sacrifice commemorating and perpetually repeating Christ's sacrificial death.

The Mass, the rites for which are set forth in the Missal, has for many centuries been said or sung in Latin (except in eastern churches where Greek, Old Slavonic, Syriac or other Oriental languages are used), but the use of a vernacular language (such as English) was sanctioned by the General Council (Vatican II) in 1963.

The Requiem Mass, as such, was not a reality much before the end of the 10th Century, and the special day for the commemoration of the dead, November 2nd (All Soul's Day), was instituted by St Odo, the Abbot of Cluny in 998 AD. This commemoration was observed everywhere by the 13th century, when the doctrine of Purgatory taught by St.Thomas Aquinas and other theologians, and foreshadowed since the 3rd Century, was universally accepted and Masses for the dead became a general feature of parish life. It would be true to say that the Mass for the Dead, stemming from the Roman Missal promulgated by Pope St. Pius V in 1570, by virtue of the Council of Trent, is of Franco-Gallican origin.

High Mass

The church official (officiant) is assisted by a deacon and subdeacon, with musical accompaniment and elaborate ritual.

Low Mass

Celebrated without music or clerical assistants.

Requiem Mass

Offered for the dead in Purgatory. The Requiem Mass is celebrated in memory of the faithful departed on All Soul's Day, 2nd November and is classified with the votive masses (not related to the Office of the Day). It may be sung also on the day of burial and on succeeding anniversaries as well as on the third, seventh and 30th days following the death.


"Eucharist" comes from the Greek word eucharistia, meaning "thanksgiving". Eucharist is the name given (especially in the Roman Catholic church) to the service of Holy Communion, especially when celebrated with music and full ritual.

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Last updated: 8th June 1997