On May 2nd and May 9th, the UU congregations of Chandler and Phoenix joined for performances of the Mozart Requiem. You may have read about these concerts in the Scottsdale UU Examiner’s articles. So, why bring it up on a Pagan page? Because several of the performers do not hold Christian, specifically Catholic, beliefs.
Is it difficult for a Pagan to perform a religious work? Depends on the person, really. Some musicians see it as simply playing/singing another piece, and give little thought to the history and text of the piece. There are a few that take great offence to performing such works, and either refuse to participate or do so grudgingly. And then there are fewer still who perform because they enjoy doing so, but really listen to the context of the piece and ask questions about their own spiritual system.
Using the Requiem as an example, it is a Catholic Mass for the dead. The first movement is asking God to grant eternal rest and light to the deceased. The Dies Irae and Tuba Mirum speak of the final judgement on Earth. Rex Tremendae makes it very clear that God is King, and the movement ends with a quiet plea to be saved. Without going through every movement or giving a lesson on Catholicism, the point is made that this is definitely not a Pagan work.
What could a Pagan get out of either performing or listening to this work? Pagans, as a whole, do not believe in Hell and that humans are damned to suffer for all eternity for not believing in a fictional character. What quite a few do believe is that we find Hell right here on Earth, and those that are not on their spiritual path are suffering a type of damnation — one that is self imposed and feels like an eternity to the person going through it.
It also tells us of offering ourself up to a Higher Power (in the case of the Requiem, God) to let Her/His work be done on Earth, whether through us, others, or by miracles. There is something more powerful and loving than humans, and Pagans let the power into their hearts as loving light. Sound like the first movement of Mozart’s Requiem? The only difference is we aren’t dead yet. Melanie Dunlap of Peaceful Spirit Enrichment Center has a sign hanging next to her treatment room: “You don’t have to be dead to move towards the light.”
Looking back to the beginnings of most religions, there is a single, common truth between them: that there is a Higher Power (sometimes more than one) that created humans, and occasionally we need their help on Earth to be givers of their loving light. And when we die, we will return to them, and from there, who knows what will happen. That is a different topic within itself!