Tenebrae in Australia

A reader sent a photo of Tenebrae service at the Church of St. Aloysius in Caulfield, in the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

Nice photo.

However… the reader in his e-mail wrote that: "An indult exists for Australia to anticipate the Tenebrae Services. Hence, it is likely that our Holy Thursday Tenebrae was the earliest worldwide this Holy Week!"

Hmmm… I would like to see the text or a copy of that indult.


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  1. Andrew, UK and sometimes Canada says:

    More Tenebrae: A recording from Westminster Cathedral is available online at:
    http://bbc.co.uk/radio3/choralevensong, complete with concluding strepitus.

  2. Frank H. says:

    I thought Tenebrae was traditionally celebrated on the evenings of Wednesday, Thursday or Friday of Holy Week? Why the need for an indult?

  3. Okie says:

    Our Diocese holds the tenebrae service the Saturday before Passion Sunday.

  4. Dr. Eric says:

    I know that this was abandoned during the Pontificate of Pius XII. Could this service be brought back?

  5. Mark M says:

    Dr Eric: Tenebrae is still in my (1962) Hand Missal; it is after all, the Matins and Lauds of the Triduum.

  6. Paul says:

    There is an ordinary form Tenebrae at least for Holy Thursday. I know that at least in the 16th century Tenebrae was celebrated on Spy Wednesday, and the day was sometimes referred to as “Tenebrae Wednesday” (it is in St. Thomas More’s writings).

  7. Interesting. I will be attending a Tenebrae service Friday night at 7pm at Saint Joseph’s in Nanticoke PA. Perhaps I’ll try to get some pics.

  8. Vincent says:

    Why would you anticipate Tenebrae? I’m having a hard time imagining why you wouldn’t just do it on its proper day.

  9. Ken says:

    The Bugnini ban on Spy Wednesday evening Tenebrae is one of the most ignored reforms of 1955 around. And we’re not just talking TLM parishes…

    Now, off to hear Tenebrae!

  10. In Toronto tonight there are two Tenebrae’s:

    St. Michael’s Cathedral has always had Tenebrae set by the founder of St. Michael’s Choir School, Msgr. John Edward Ronan.

    The Toronto Oratory has Tenebrae followed by Compline at Holy Family and has done so for about ten years now. Past years have featured Victoria and Palestrina and of course Allegri…I am eager to experience it tonight–Tallis maybe?

  11. shadrach says:

    Outside of the mass no liturgical service is more moving, I think, than Tenebrae, especially when said as dusk falls on Holy Thursday night. Two years ago, I remember going to the office in St Audoen’s, Dublin (the excellent latin mass chaplaincy there has moved church since, the priests are still excellent, by the way). As an aside, could anyone please refer me to a good recording of the Lamentations of Jeremiah in Gregorian plainchant, not Josquin, not Tallis, just plainchant. I would be so so grateful. Thank you.

  12. I should add that The Oratory does not officially call it “Tenebrae” but it is a devotional service called “Lamentations” followed by Night Prayer.


  13. shadrach says:

    Unfortunately the BBC iplayer doesn’t play in the US.

  14. terra says:

    There is an obvious reason for anticipating it the night before – outside a monastery, starting it at 2.30am or so in order to finish in the traditional darkness is pretty challenging!

    More photos of the event can be found on my blog…

  15. Dominic H says:

    Got back about an hour ago from the Tenebrae service at Corpus Christi, Maiden Lane, London, England, which started just before sundown. (The London Oratory had a service too). A lot of Latin to follow!

  16. Justin says:


    The above link should work anywhere. The Lamentation is chanted to plainsong. Victoria’s tenebrae responsories are sung. Lassus In monte oliveti, Anerio’s Christus factus est, Casal’s O vos omnes also sung.

  17. michigancatholic says:

    I’ve never been to a Tenebrae. Perhaps this is the year. I’ll have to find one.

  18. Supertradmom says:

    Why the indult? When we lived in London, the Oratory held it. Our parish in Dorset,England had Tenebrae every year on the Wednesday of Holy Week, and when I was as Notre Dame, a beautiful Tenebrae was held every year. I do not know if it is still done there.

  19. Supertradmom says:

    May I add that the children loved the ending with the banging of the hymn books on the pews as a reminder of the stone being pushed back at the Resurrection, as well as the earthquake at the Death of Jesus. These physical practices are wonderful for children, as well as for us adults!

  20. shadrach says:

    Justin, Thank you for that. It worked a treat. I’m still curious about any recordings of the entire Lamentatio Ieremiae in plainchant; they seem non-existent.

  21. Hugh says:

    Quick quiz:

    At what stage of the service are they up to at the moment the photo is taken?

  22. RichR says:

    The Schola I singin just got done with our abbreviated Tenebrae service. Latin chants, sacred polyphony, the congregation praying stanzas is English. About 60 people were there at St. Thomas Aquinas in College Station, TX.

  23. James says:


    Can’t you just celebrate that they are actually DOING the Tenebrae rather than suggest that they are lying about the indult? Unfortunately I’ve come to expect cynicism here…too bad.

  24. Ioannes Andreades says:

    Very interesting series of articles over at newliturgicalmovement.org, including one on the revision of the office of Triduum under Pope Pius XII. The following page has answers to several questions posed on this thread:

    Jeffrey Morse over at the MusicaSacra forum also mentioned that Australia secured an indult in 1955 to be able to pray tenebrae at the traditional hour but the U.S. didn’t: http://musicasacra.com/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=1713&page=1#Item_0

  25. AM says:

    According to the current rubrics, Matins and Lauds are to be said at the proper time, and not anticipated in the evening: with one exception, namely in churches where the Chrism Mass would be said in the morning on Thursday, in which case the first Tenebrae can be anticipated the evening before.

    If you start early enough, you can still say the end of Lauds before dawn. :-)

    At what stage of the service are they up to at the moment the photo is taken?

    They’re reciting the second psalm at Matins, Deus in adiutorium, as shown by the fact that only the first light is put out.

  26. Charivari Rob says:

    We had a beautiful, slightly abbreviated Tenebrae service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston Wednesday evening. A couple of hundred in attendance, I’d guess.

    Beautiful music throughout by the Cathedral Choir’s chambers singers, with the congregation singing responses.

    Only hitch was the passing ice cream truck that threated to drown out several measures of one delicately-balanced chant. One would think that such a massive-looking building would be more soundproof.

  27. Hugh says:

    AM, I think if you look closely you’ll see that two candles are extinguished at either end of the hearse.

    In which case they are into the third psalm of the first Nocturn, In Te Domine.

    Your reasoning is correct, though – well done.


  28. Peter says:

    I echo Terra’s comment, but from a different perspective.

    Tenebrae is beautifula, and do-able in a parish perspective with a modicum of musical talent and preparation.

    However, in a parish perspective the only time that is really practicable for work-a-day faithful is in the evening, ie anticipating.

    Pius XII’s (aka Bugnini’s) time change works fine for monasteries and seminaries where they do this stuff as their daily bread and butter, but if the wider church is to experience it the proposed timing is impractical.

  29. Father Totton says:

    Shadrach might check out some of the recordings available from Solesmes or Fontgombault. I think you will find something there of the Lamentations in Gregorian

  30. geoff jones says:

    i went to that service at caulfield 2 easters ago and sang in choir. that trad community has two great priests–traditional but not reactionary.

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