In anticipation of my baptism (:extrahappy:) I was looking up my parish’s Holy Week schedule. On Wed evening there is a service called Tenebrae. What is this? I looked it up on Wikipedia and there is a brief explanation, but I was hoping someone who has been to one can give me an idea of what it’s like. I am off work by then so I would like to go if possible.
It was one of the most incredibly moving experiences of my life.
It started out with just candles, no lights. After each reading, the reader would put out one of the candles. After the last reading the last candle is put out. You are left in near total darkness. Then there was the sound of the loudest drum I have ever heard, to replicate the closing of the tomb.
Everyone leaves in silence, and some of us in near tears.
Wow- I think I MUST go!
It’s an adaptation of the Liturgy of the Hours, basically.
I’d agree…very moving, profound, and prayerful liturgy. Glad you have the chance to celebrate it, not many parishes do (from what I’ve seen)
Exactly my experience too, it was awesome. GO if you can.
Can we just camp out at Church during Holy Week?
That is kind of what I do.
Holy Thursday is Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
Good Friday is Stations at 3pm then Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion at 7pm
Holy Saturday is Easter Vigil at 8pm.
(My son calls it pulling a trifecta)
I wish our Parish had a Tenebrae service every year. We had it once 3 years ago.
Tenebrae is composed of the old offices of Vigils and Lauds for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, “anticipated” on the evening before those days. Since there are already evening liturgies on Holy Thursday and (in many places) on Good Friday, in actual practice you usually only find Tenebrae on Wednesday evening of Holy Week – if you’re lucky enough to find it at all!
The traditional monastic Office in Holy Week was pared back to the minimum: just the psalms, canticles, readings, and responsories, concluding with a single prayer. No opening, ceremones, hymns, dismissal, etc.
The readings – from the Lamentations of Jeremiah – have their own unique chant setting for Tenebrae. which is quite affecting.
The coolest part is where the title comes from – “tenebrae” is Latin for “shadows”. The service is sung with the church as dark as possible. In the chancel is a triangular stand holding 15 candles, which are put out one by one as the service progresses. The final candle – at the very end of the service – is not put out, but taken and “hidden” behind the altar. Then in silence the celebrant makes a loud bang, calling to mind the earthquake at the time of the Passion, the candle is brought back out and returned to the stand, and everyone departs in silence.
Done right, it’s extremely powerful! I hope you can go.
Can anyone point me to a document (I suppose equivalent to the Missal) for Tenebrae? Something listing which readings, what happens between them, chant settings, etc.?
It’s in the Liber Usualis. Holy Thursday (i.e., Wednesday evening) is on pp 621-653 of the edition I have.
The text (no music) is also in the pre-Vatican II Breviary. Holy Thursday is in Volume 2, pp 1100-1126 of the well-known three-volume set published by The Liturgical Press in 1964.
Msgr Peter Elliot, in his book Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year (pp 212-214), includes directions for adapting the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer from the current Liturgy of the Hours for a service of Tenebrae.