PODCAzT 16: Tenebrae factae sunt – Good Friday

This is Good Friday.  For years I have participated in singing Tenebrae during the Triduum, usually at St. Agnes Church in St. Paul, MN (USA) where the liturgy and music is unrivaled.  As a matter of fact I would usually leave Rome to go back there, because St. Agnes is not to be bested.  However, this year I stayed. 

I found a little church, staffed by the FSSP, where they sing Tenebrae.  What I heard inspired me to make this rapid PODCAzT.

ALERT: I am very stuffed up today.  I think it is a cold, rather than allergies.

Here is a photo at San Gregorio dei Muratori during Tenebrae:

During one of the readings I slide up to the rickety choir loft:

 

They used the Liber Usualis and everything was sung.  The proper rubrics were observed.  It was nearly precisely as I knew the service from both St. Agnes and monasteries I have been where the old ways are preserved with care.   As a matter of fact, though I didn’t have a book with me, I could sing by heart the antiphons.  As a matter of fact, the motto on my coat-of-arms is from the psalm used as the first antiphon for Tenebrae, Zelus domus tuae, which I chose purposely for its connection with Tenebrae.

Here is a shot from Tenebrae at St. Agnes with yours truly as celebrant.

 

The Church Universal spans both oceans and centuries.

These traditions from our vast treasury, our common patrimony, are not to be lost.  As a matter of fact, many younger people are seeking them and reviving them.   When and if the Holy Father derestricts the use of the older form of Missal, I think this process will accelerate… to everyone’s benefit.


http://www.wdtprs.com/podcazt/07_04_06.mp3

FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in PODCAzT, SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to PODCAzT 16: Tenebrae factae sunt – Good Friday

  1. rudi says:

    Arms, I though you were a gentleman.

  2. Jon says:

    Father,

    Although you’ve closed comments on the Mandatum, with your acquiesence I’d like to share this description of my own hopeful experience last night. I wrote it this morning to a friend.

    This took place at The Cathedral of St. Patrick, Harrisburg, PA. The Ordinary, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, was the celebrant.

    …I’d go so far to say that with the exception of having seen Father Rutler, and maybe getting the bishop to face the “right way,” the Novus Ordo in ICELese couldn’t have been done any better.

    There was common chant throughout, all in Latin, including the Gloria, the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei .The Kyrie was Greek. I’ve never heard Ubi caritas chanted so beautifully. Things were only marred by “Take and Eat” as the Communion song, and even that was orchestrated and sung in sort of a round that dulled its usual smarminess. Everything else was well done. Each time Bishop Rhoades in his homily referred to the Mass, he used the term, and quite naturally, “Holy Mass.” He washed the feet of twelve seminarians (I think the diocese has eighteen in all). We sang Pange Lingua processing out of the cathedral, and up the street to St. Lawerence [where the diocesan indult is celebrated] I was afraid the “Table” would’ve been rolled back into the sanctuary, but it wasn’t there. The sanctuary was as we’d left it last Sunday.

    The chapel was filled with incense. The bishop, with his two deacons, simply put the Blessed Sacrament in the ancient tabernacle, and knelt before it. The priests in choir knelt along the communion rail to the left and right, with a priest holding a very tall taper at each end. Until that point, all three-hundred of us were still lustily singing Pange until the Blessed Sacrament was in place. As soon as the bishop turned the key, locking the tabernacle, the singing abruptly stopped. There was then 5 solid minutes of silent prayer when the MC looked up to the choir loft and nodded. On this cue, everyone broke into the two final verses – Tantum ergo and Genitori, Genitoque. It left a lump in the throat.

    …On the way home, we made the custmomary pilgrimage for the third year in a row: St. Joseph’s, St. Mary’s, and SJN. We tried another parish, St. Anthony’s, but the lights were already out. This was all between 10 and 11 o’clock. There were plenty of people in both St. Joe’s and St. Mary’s, and the priests in both places were still hearing confessions. At SJN, only a single woman and Monsignor were in the, ahem, “chapel.” Every year Monsignor prays Compline at 11, but this year it looked like he’d done it earlier, so at 11:06 Will [my seventh grade son] and I rose and came home. Before going to bed he gave me a hug and told me how much the night meant to him.

    I’ve always enjoyed Holy Thursday because, apart from the nonsense of washing Susie’s feet, the transfer of the Blessed Sacrament, the pilgrimage, Pange Lingua, and the hearing of confessions in a candle-lit church, was to me always the most traditional part of the Novus Ordo. When I was young[er] back in Batavia [my home town], families used to walk from church to church to visit the altars of reposition. Being a small town full of Italians, Poles, and Irish, some traditions die hard. At times though I forget that I’ve been away for twenty years now, so I wonder if the tradition still exists. What a pity if it doesn’t. Then again, what a joy if it does…

  3. tj says:

    We missed you yesterday at Tenebrae and will miss you today and tomorrow. Hope you’ll be able to return to St. Agnes.

  4. John Polhamus says:

    I’d like to do the same re: the Mandatum. Last night in San Diego we had only six people (out of three hundred), three men and three women, and all of them RCIA candidates, which means that they weren’t even received into the faith yet. I don’t want to be uncharitable, but is there a rubric about being male and fully received to be eligible for the footwashing at mass?

  5. Folks… if you haven’t gotten the hint by now… I really like things to STAY ON TOPIC. I appreciate the experiences, but kindly stay on topic.

  6. tj: I am sure the turn out at St. Agnes was good for the singing of Tenebrae. I know also that, simultaneously, there are usually four priests hearing confessions during that period. If you are there tomorrow, you might greet everyone for me.

  7. Paul says:

    Are unbleached candles not available in Rome?

  8. Jon says:

    Okay, let’s see if I can make reparation for departing from the WDTPRS 11th commandment (the one about topics);^)

    It’s always interested/disappointed me that the tradition of the Tenebrae Office, celebrated in darkness, with triangular candlabra, etc… is found more often among Protestant than Catholic churches.

    Does anyone have any ideas why this tradition, especially given the post-reform desire that the Office be prayed universally, has fallen off among Catholic parishes, and at the same time paradoxically become so common among Protestant congregations?

  9. Athanasius says:

    Father,

    Is this little FSSP church by the Piazza di Spagna? I was there several years ago.
    You are truly blessed to have access to Tenebrae at all. Here in the liturgical wasteland of Southern California, I would be lucky not to find a deacon’s wife giving a sermon let alone to find beautiful traditions such as Tenebrae. Even the SSPX and the independent priests have no Tenebrae service, because they anticipate it. Furthermore I sold my Liber to pay some debts so now I have to sing it recto tono from the text Dom Gueranger provides with tea lights. Sigh….. please pray for the Motu Proprio and for Pope Benedict to crush the head of……. certain heterodox cardinals in my area. :D

    Oremus pro invicem,

    Philip

  10. John Polhamus says:

    “…the liturgical wasteland of Southern California.”

    Philip, Athanasius:
    You might be gratified to know that with eleven in Choir and one server, Chorus Breviarii San Diego on Wednesday night performed it’s Seventh annual Tenebrae of Holy Thursday (‘62 breviary, gregorian chant) in the diocesan church of St. John the Evangelist. There were about thirty in attendance, many of whom were RCIA candidates, or even non-Catholic invitees. No one left early. Two sets of double cantors were used, alternating with the full group, and the responsories were sung to a simple homophonic progression, thus creating a variation in texture which was achievable by (largely) musically untrained psalmists (most of the members of CB are “Psalmisti” commissioned in the old rite formula by Bishop Cordileone at Pontifical Vespers several years ago), while being highly time efficient. The office took exactly 2h 5 min. Not bad for time.

    Ironically, we had no clergy present, as the one available option was occupied with a parish Seder meal. I always thought that the rites of the Catholic church took precedence over playing bible times with sandles and turbans, and prefering to mock-adhere to a custom of the old covenant. Strangely, for me, Jesus Christ and his divinely instituted mass is the saving meal and of the New Covenant, and there is no other. Christ’s death and ressurection is the new passover. Or so I thought.

    I think you sold your liber a little too soon. Demand it back and come down to San Diego for Sunday Vespers (’62 rite) the 2nd Sunday after Easter. Bring friends!

  11. Stephen M. Collins says:

    Jon, from what I have observed, there are a variety of reasons that Tenebrae has been lost (hopefully temporaryily).

    1) The new rules for the Office seem to push whatever observance baci to the morning of the day, not the evening before. I’m afraid that loses a lot of the symbolism for me – if IS a service of “darkness”.

    2) Before the reforms of Pope Pius XII in 1955, the three Tenebrae Service were mandatory, or at least the only universal option. The “Indult” Missal is the 1962 edition, and there is nothing related to any of the Offices in it.

    3) It is a fairly long Liturgy, with a lot of chanting. We did it in English at Our Lady of Walsingham (Houston, Texas) for a few years, but felt that it need to be just a bit shorter. We did it on the evening of Wednesday of Holy Week to set the tone for the Triduum. On investigation, I found that Tenebrae was historically shortened by using only one Nocturn – hence all the musical versions of “Lamentations of Jeremiah”. I didn’t want to go that route. So, for the next years that I was there, we did it this way:
    a) At Matins, each of the 3 Nocturns had 8-10 verses of 2 of the apointed Psasms, the 3 Lessons combined into one, and the Responsories combined and recited by the congregation. Not 1 but 2 candles were extinguished after each Psalm.
    b) At Lauds, we chanted only 1 Psalm, followed by the O.T. Canticle. The rest was kept in tact, including all the verses of the N.T. Canticle and Psalm 51.
    I think it kept more of the meditative value than omitting the 2nd and 3rd Nocturns, and it was a better length – about 3/4 of the total.
    I do hope that the custom is revised, but I’m not sure how if the Indult Missal remains the 1962 without any addenda.

  12. John Polhamus says:

    “Does anyone have any ideas why this tradition, especially given the post-reform desire that the Office be prayed universally, has fallen off among Catholic parishes, and at the same time paradoxically become so common among Protestant congregations?”

    Jon: Because it’s a massive two hour sing, that’s why, with rubrics that have to be observed. What the protestants do may be called a “Tenebrae” (Darkness” so called for the hour and because of the sombre tone), but has nothing of the fullness of the Roman observance. It fell into disuse also because in naive fashion, the council fathers were reccomending the practice of something that would soon have the rug pulled out from under it as soon as the Breviary was reformed. There isn’t much point in doing Matins liturgically when in the new rite there’s only one nocturn of psalms involved. Nine in the old rite, three in the new. Each nocturn had three readings and three responsories in the old rite as well, now there are two readings and two responsories for the single nocturn of the “Office of Readings”.

    But the irony is that if you want to do it with gregorian chant, the ’62 is still justifiable (even outside indult circles) because there is nothing approaching an musical editio typica for the Brevarium Romanum.

  13. Jon says:

    John,

    I realize they’re both intensely liturgical denominations, but I’ve been to Tenebrae at both high Anglican and Missouri Synod Lutheran congregations with family (my parents converted before I was born), and believe me, the services weren’t confined to an hour. But by and large I believe you’re correct. The Liturgy of the Hours is difficult at best to celebrate communally.

    I wonder, Father, is it the ’62 Breviary or the LotH that’s celebrated at St. Agnes?

  14. John Polhamus says:

    “We did it on the evening of Wednesday of Holy Week to set the tone for the Triduum.

    Stephen: the reason Tenebrae is historically anticipated to the evening before is not to “set the tone” but to allow the public to attend. People work. They can’t be there at two in the morning, so in an interesting nod to the old concept of the new day beginning at sundown on the previous, just as Saturday evening has always been first Vespers of Sunday, the church always allowed the night office and Lauds of the days of the Triduum to be sung the night before. But then, by 1962 this was “forbidden.” How considerate. Well, forbid THIS, because I have to go to work in the morning, and I’m still going to sing Tenebrae, even today so get used to the custom again! The fact that the Easter Vigil Mass took place on Saturday morning also made it easier for families to attend both liturgies. Children who’ve been up for a signifigant liturgy all evening aren’t going to be in shape for Sunday Morning, but that’s just another example of how the reform supports families. I guess that’s why they’re growing so in the new rite.

    “Tenebrae was historically shortened by using only one Nocturn – hence all the musical versions of “Lamentations of Jeremiah”.”

    That would constitute a serious abuse. I don’t know where it would be done that way, perhaps in your diocese, but it wasn’t shortened in Rome Thomas Luis de Victoria’s day. That is why his polyphonic responsories lack the first three responsories for each day’s Tenebrae: because the Lamentation responsories, which are the three responsories of the first nocturn of each day, already had music of their own. The other six responsories in each day’s tenebrae are melismatic chant, and are MUCH more complicated, not to mention lengthy. All together they add perhaps half an hour in length, which is fine if you are in a monastery, or have sufficient numbers of capable singers to whom to divide them out. But for individual singers, even professional ones, to sing all of the responsories is a big sing (when added to all the psalmody and antiphons).

    I’d be interested to hear where Tenebrae was historically shortened, but according to the correct Roman usage, shortening tenebrae isn’t an option. By the way, beautiful as it is, Tenebrae is a hard sell to congregations; it’s hard work, a long sit, and a long focus of attention – it leaves one a bit phazed if you’re really into it, not to mention tired and dehydrated if you’ve sung it. It’s not designed to be popular, but it’s there to be done nonetheless. Some people may have to leave for time reasons, some may just get tired of it. But it’s still there to be done.

  15. Paul says:

    John Polhamus wrote:
    “You might be gratified to know that with eleven in Choir and one server, Chorus Breviarii San Diego on Wednesday night performed it’s Seventh annual Tenebrae of Holy Thursday (‘62 breviary, gregorian chant) in the diocesan church of St. John the Evangelist. There were about thirty in attendance, many of whom were RCIA candidates, or even non-Catholic invitees. No one left early. Two sets of double cantors were used, alternating with the full group, and the responsories were sung to a simple homophonic progression, thus creating a variation in texture which was achievable by (largely) musically untrained psalmists (most of the members of CB are “Psalmisti” commissioned in the old rite formula by Bishop Cordileone at Pontifical Vespers several years ago), while being highly time efficient. The office took exactly 2h 5 min. Not bad for time.”

    Please explain how you can have Tenebrae at all according to the rubrics of the 1962 books on Spy Wednesday evening. According to those rubrics mattins (only) may be anticipated in those Cathedrals where the Chrism Mass takes place the next morning.

    Tenebrae was never sung in the morning. Scholarship has moved on a lot since some of those very shaky reforms in the mid-1950s. Anyone interested in the history of Tenebrae would find McGreogory, Fire and Light in the Western Triduum, Alcuin Club Collection 71 a fascinating starting point. Trying to sing mattins and lauds any day in the early morning is not going to attract ordinary people. In contrast when Tenebrae was sung on the evenings of the respective days (as mattins always was) people attended and loved the service. In Rome it was sung very early, about 3.00pm so the setting sun was seen to go down from some window of the Sistine Chapel.

  16. MikeJH says:

    Father, my wife and I also miss your presence at St. Agnes. The Church was full for the Holy Thursday Mass. Although there have been many changes at St. Agnes this past year, the Holy essence and reverence of the Mass lives on thanks to the example you and other faithful priests have instilled. Thank you also for providing us with these PODCAzTs. It is refreshing to hear your voice and varied insights. Know that you are remembered in our prayers. Mike

  17. John Polhamus says:

    “Please explain how you can have Tenebrae at all according to the rubrics of the 1962 books on Spy Wednesday evening.”

    Paul:
    Well of course you can’t. It’s part of the Bugnini design of confusion and discouragement. So technically the FSSP at S. Gregorio are breaking the indult rules. But you know what Paul (the Apostle – just avoiding confusion!) says, “In the letter of the law there is death, but in the spirit of the Law, there is life” which is long way of saying “Rules are there to be…adapted to traditional Roman usage.” But of course, the evening before is the traditional hour for Tenebrae, and that’s when it’s going to get done, if it gets done, whatever liturgical books are in force. We get it done here!

    In te Domine speravi: non confundar in aeternam.

  18. Dear Paul,

    It is not true that Tenebrae was “never” celebrated in the
    morning. The pactice of “anticipating” Matins is late
    medieval, and my religious, at least, never adopted it. In
    thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Italy it was definitely
    a morning office: see my _Cities of God: The Religion of
    the Italian Communes, 1125-1325 (Penn State Press, 2005),
    pp. 321-326 on the variations of the Rite. [excuse the
    shameless self-promotion.]

    My favorite medieval Italian practice was
    the relighting of the hearse candles on Saturday morning
    during the preces in “anticipation” of the Easter Vigil
    that afternoon. It should be self-evident that a morning
    office would not have originally been performed in the
    evening.

    In my order, we never (at least officially) had Tenebrae
    anticipated to the night before–as explained in the
    Caeremoniale Sacr. Ord. Praed. (1873). I suspect that
    the practice of anticipation was principally a practice in
    secular (diocesan) churches or churches of regulars running
    parishes. For the good reason you mention that it was
    easier for people to come. Which I would still consider
    a pretty good reason.

    On unbleached candles: we had them this morning in
    Charlottesville VA. With a good attendence of about 60
    –up from about 12 last year!

  19. Paul says:

    Fr. Augustine,

    I will read your article, if I can find a copy, with interest. Have you read MacGregor? I confess ignorance of the Dominican rite but am not convinced at all by the idea of Tenebrae in the daylight hours of morning, certainly after mid-night yes.

    MacGregor satisfies to me at least that the denigration of ‘medieval’ ceremonial was without foundation. The fashions of the 1950s and 1960s have hardly stood the test of time. The whole significance of Tenebrae is lost if it is done in daylight, even at 3.00 in the afternoon. IMHO nothing can be as moving as hearing the Miserere at the end in darkness.

    John,

    Yes, quite I fully appreciate your point. The 1956 rule regarding the anticipation of Maundy Thurday mattins AND lauds at least made some sense. The 1962 change of just having mattins – as was done in Westminster Cathedral coram pontifice – leaving six candles on the hearse alight (I checked in The Tablet, 1962) was bizzare – no wonder people gave up on the service.

    I hope the verse from psalm 30 you give is one you sing at traditional Compline.

  20. Dear Paul,

    Sorry. I didn’t mean to imply that Tenebrae was celebrated
    in the daylight hours, e.g. after sunrise. The medieval practice was to begin
    the night office so that Lauds would be complete as morning
    light approached. With the exception (perhaps) of the
    Carthusians, the idea that monks “broke sleep” between a
    midnight Matins and a morning Lauds seems to be a romantic
    fiction.

    My work on medieval worship is not an article, but
    a book. You can find it here: http://www.psupress.psu.edu/books/titles/0-271-02477-1.html I also have an extensive section on Matins and lay devotion and its rising popularity (in spite of the early hour) in 13th-cent.
    Italy.

    May our Lord bless you with a Holy Triduum.

  21. Geoffrey says:

    Excellent podcast, Father! I have always seen Tenebrae in the back of my Baronius Missal, but it never really “meant” anything until you hear it! Too bad they cannot somehow “work this into” the Liturgy of the Hours. Many parishes celebrate Morning Prayer (Lauds) on the days of the Triduum.

    Does anyone happen to know where you can find the complete Tenebrae on CD?

  22. Sean says:

    For what it’s worth, impressions of my first* 1962 tenebrae (anticipated so dark by the end). Like lent in that it is daunting at the start, grinding along through scenes of desolation with interminably looping responses, but whose insistent rhythm delivers a great lift by the end.

    * I immediately recognised the distinctive candlesticks and realised that I must have seen it before as a small child.

  23. John Polhamus says:

    “With the exception (perhaps) of the
    Carthusians, the idea that monks “broke sleep” between a
    midnight Matins and a morning Lauds seems to be a romantic
    fiction.”

    Fr. Augustine: You’re probably right, but since the efficient chanting of the
    two offices together, Matins and Lauds, can be done in about 2 hrs., if they
    retired at 8:00pm, they would easily rise at 4:00am, and be done with Matins
    and Lauds by 7:00am. leaving time for Prime (cathy phrase), and a light collation
    before terce prior to conventual mass.

    Wouldn’t it be great though, to see a really ‘into it’ bunch of Roman cathedral
    canons, who really did get up at 3:00am for the night office during the Triduum?
    With first rate music, I’ll bet they’d draw a crowd if they did!