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Bernstein considered including "4 Lullabies for Martyrs" which included "JFK" (John F. Kennedy), "RFK" (Robert F. Kennedy), "MLK" (Martin Luther King), "MX" (Malcolm X), and "6,000,000 (1,000,000 children)" referring to those killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust. For the Epistle sources he mentions Timothy, [Father Dan] Berrigan and Soledad.
Bernstein wrote copious notes as he began work on MASS, many of which explored the nature of faith and religion. This note reads:
"Some religion necessary to every man - belief in something greater than random/systematic biological existence. Existentialism fails for this reason (in its chic aspect of post-war French philosophy) -- Religion(s) of peace, militancy, social progress, self-discovery, love-dependency, other-identification. Altruism is a kind of religion. So is anarchy. God=idea=elan vital. COMMITMENT."
"Father Dan said today: Leave them with the militant mood. You yell at them and turn off the lights": Bernstein consulted with radical pacifist Father Dan Berrigan about how best to deliver the message of peace to MASS's audience. Here, his suggestion is rather violent; Bernstein chose another way.
"What I need I don't have
What I have I don't own
What I own I don't want
What I want, Lord, I don't know."
This lyric is sung in a rock-and-roll style and appears in the "Confiteor" (Confession) section of MASS.
"The day they stop the war we can have Communion," and the response, "They don't deserve communion" were supplied by Father Dan Berrigan, a Catholic priest and anti-war protester whom Bernstein visited in prison during his work on MASS.
In this early draft of the song "Thank You," the lyric begins "What lips my lips have kissed...". This is the first line of an Edna St. Vincent Millay sonnet which Bernstein finally set in his 1976 piece, Songfest.
The violent demands for peace that erupt at the end of the "Agnus Dei" section lead to the destruction of holy vessels and the sacrament of Communion. Violence begets tragedy. Only after a return to the simplest expression of faith ("Secret Songs") and to peacefulness is the act of communion carried out in the passed "kiss of peace".
"You scream for peace, you won't get it that way, screaming is not peaceful, & only peacefulness can engender peace. Peace must be practiced, pledged, not preached; it must be lived, loved out, acted out.
"The rub: this must be done by all. One dissenter, one attacker, & we are all defenders. All--no exception: I give you the kiss of peace: this is communion. But the communion is holy only if you pass this kiss, this pledge to your neighbor, whenever it is next to you. Whoever. Pax tecum."