QUAERITUR: communal recitation of office in parishes during Triduum

From a reader:


In preparation for Holy Week I (for the first time ever) read PASCHALES SOLEMNITATIS and noted that in paragraph 40 it states that "It is recommended that there be a communal celebration of the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer on Good Friday and Holy Saturday."  I would like to have the opportunity to do this in my parish, although to my knowledge it has not been done in the past.  eBreviary actually provides the prayers in PDF form for these days free of charge.  I am considering asking our pastor if he would permit such a communal celebration in our parish chapel.  Would I be off base in doing so?  Is there anything that I need to take into account if we are given permission to go forward (i.e., is Morning Prayer on Good Friday and Holy Saturday at the same time as always – or is it prayed the night before [I am somewhat confused how these prayers relate to Tenebrae]?).

I don’t think it is off-base to ask to do something that is recommended by the Church.

The morning office, which has a special structure, during the Triduum is called "Tenebrae".
I think I will open this up to the readership.

What is going on in your parishes?

How did you get it going and what do you do?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. kat says:

    We actually have the sung Latin Tenebrae all 3 mornings. The junior and senior high school students are required to attend on Thursday; the other two days are optional. Men and boys individually sing the Lessons, and the men’s schola does the Responsories. Everyone sings the Psalms, alternating the verses on each side of the aisle. It’s always beautiful. But then, Holy Week is too beautiful for words. I love all the Sacred Liturgy of the Triduum.

  2. frsbr says:

    We chant Tenebrae on Good Friday and Holy Saturday mornings. It takes the form of the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer. Between the two, one of the Lamentaions is chanted in Latin. Since we don’t have a hearse, six large candelabra are set up in front of the altar of reservation in the Adoration Chapel. At the conclusion of each Psalm a candle is extinguished. The old Paschal candle is removed at the conclusion (in darkness) and the strepidus is sounded. Our men’s schola leads the chanting of the Psalms.

  3. gloriainexcelsis says:

    St. Stephen’s, Sacramento, also has Tenebrae all three mornings, the priests and schola positioned on either side of the altar leading the chant. When you have attended even once, you never forget the experience.

  4. Henry Edwards says:

    At Holy Ghost Church in Knoxville, TN:

    Parish bulletin announcement: “Please accept an invitation to the celebration of Tenebrae at Holy Ghost Church, Monday, March 29, at 7:30 pm. The Office of Tenebrae (which means ‘darkness’ or ‘shadow’) is a Holy Week devotion dating back to the 7th or 8th century A.D. and is characterized by the successive extinguishing of candles as the service progresses. No service during the entire church year is more biblical.”

    Additional note: Monsignor Xavier Mankel’s annual celebration of Tenebrae is an annual liturgical treat for many of us who are traditionally inclined. Participants are provided with booklets to read and sing their parts, and with small individual flashlights to see them as increasing darkness envelops the church. (After each reading, another of the 15 candles on the tenebrae “hearse” is extinguished, until at the end none is still lit.) The Office features Msgr. Mankel’s chanting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, and ends with the eerie sound of a strepitus (Latin for “great noise”) in the dark, after which the faithful depart in silence. Not to be missed!

    It should be mentioned that this is a vernacular office using special parish booklets that date back some years.

  5. worm says:

    We have morning prayer 8AM on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. We have Tenebrae 11:30PM on Holy Thursday night. All are in English. They’ve been going on at least since the pastor arrived a few years ago. I think he was the one who initiated it.

  6. jrotond2 says:

    Fully sung Tenebrae according to the 1962 Liber Usualis on all three mornings at Mater Ecclesiae in Berlin, NJ. We usually have a schola of 4-6 men to sing everything (including the full chant for the Responsories) and some of the parishioners have increasingly become more comfortable singing the psalms.

    The fact that Mater Ecclesiae has consistently done this every year since its inception (in addition to all the other liturgical “extras”) played no small part in my family deciding to relocate to the area four years ago.

  7. jrotond2 says:

    I should add that Mater Ecclesiae, in conjunction with the new Confraternity of St. Benedict, will also be adding recited Compline to the schedule of Holy Week ceremonies this year on Holy Thursday and Good Friday.

  8. Geoffrey says:

    In at least two parishes in my California diocese, Lauds (Morning Prayer) is recited during the triduum. The time varies between either 8am or 9am. I have never attended, so I am not sure how it is done. I doubt either parish has copies of “Christian Prayer” for everyone who attends.

    One parish has something called Tenebrae scheduled for Good Friday evening. I am curious as to what it consists of… I know they won’t be using the Extraordinary Form version of Tenebrae!

  9. Rachel says:

    My parish doesn’t have Tenebrae. However, my husband and I are starting the tradition in our own home. Last year, all I had was some green and red candles so we used those. This year, I bought two 7-light votive candle holders and I bought some candles with them. We will be doing a sung Tenebrae with my husband doing most of the chants since I’m not that good at it but I try :).

  10. Henry Edwards says:

    Geoffrey: One parish has something called Tenebrae scheduled for Good Friday evening. I am curious as to what it consists of

    You might read my post above @ 10:07 am with a description of our vernacular Tenebrae service apparently based on the traditional morning (matins) services during the sacred triduum, rather than on the Liturgy of the Hours, whose morning (office of readings) services have the same 3 psalms and 2 readings structure during the triduum as on any other days of the year (and, alas, no Lamentations of Jeremiah).

    Incidentally, our parish does have sung lauds (6 am) and vespers (5:30 pm) daily throughout the year (as well as 2 weekday masses and a 3rd on parish school days), and does have (Shorter) Christian Prayer books available for those attending without their own.

    I guess that — with 5 OF Masses plus an EF Mass and a Spanish Mass, and also a Byzantine divine liturgy each Sunday, lots of scheduled confessions on multiple days, stations of the cross in both English and Spanish during Lent, etc. — Holy Ghost (Knoxville, TN) might be called a “full service” parish.

  11. AnnaTrad51 says:

    At our TLM parish we will be having fully sung Tenebrae according to the 1962 Liber Usualis with our two priests and schola on all three mornings at 7:30 am. We have done this since we became a full parish. Well we had it even before we were a full parish.

  12. moon1234 says:

    From what I have read, Tenebrae from the divine office, is not allowed to be anticipated according to the modern law. Traditionally Tenebrae was made up of Lauds and Matins with some special ceremony. I am curious as to what people are calling Tenebrae today? If they are using the divine office then the Tenebrae service was traditionally anticipated on the day before. (i.e. Holy Thursday’s Lauds and Matins were sung on Wednesday Evening) This is why the Holy Week Tenebrae service speaks of darkness and the candles on the Tenebrae Herse are slowly extinguished until the church is left in total darkness.

    If Tenebrae service is held at dawn then this would seem to clash with the use of the Tenebrae herse since the church would not dark. When +Bugnini messed with Holy Week and the times of Holy Week Masses were moved to the evening this made the traditional Tenebrae service no longer possible except for Holy Thursday Tenebrae would could be anticipated on Spy Wednesday.

  13. Sid says:

    moon1234 is both wrong and right.

    He is factually wrong that the changes in the Holy Week Masses were the work of Bugnini. They were the work of Pius XII in 1955, and the only “Holy Week Masses” moved to night were Holy Thursday and The Easter Vigil. Nor were these changes “messed”. Our Lord’s Last Supper was in the evening, so it makes sense to hold the Mass then; and the Easter Vigil, the Christian Passover, was a night solemnity; the powerful affect of the Vigil, the Christian Eleusian Mysteries, the transition from dark to light would be lost if it where held on Saturday during the day time.

    moon1234 is right in see the Tenebrae as losing its own powerful affect were it to be offered in daylight. And because Holy Thursday Mass and the Easter Vigil are now rightly placed, it’s time to rethink the time of the Tenebrae. The Divine Office Ordo already allows for an anticipatory Vigil before Sundays and Solemnities. Why not incorporate the old Tenebrae into such a Vigil and hold it in the evenings of Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, and Holy Wednesday? — a sort of three day anticipation of the Triduum itself. We could still have for the Office a Solemn Mattins and Laudes in the mornings of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.

    And by all means, parishes should have Solemn Vespers on Easter Sunday; the Ordo indeed says that this Vespers ends the Triduum.

  14. MAJ Tony says:

    Our parish, Holy Rosary, in Indianapolis, holds Tenebrae according to the Liber Usualis with the Spy Wednesday night service (anticipated Maundy Thursday) and the mornings of Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

  15. Jack007 says:

    Uh, sorry Sid.
    I’m no historical expert, but I think it’s common knowledge that Mons. Bugnini was indeed HEAVILY involved with the reform of Holy Week in the 1950’s. This was prior to his first “exile” (his choice of words) by John XXIII.
    Most scholars are of the opinion that Pius XII was already in decline healthwise, as well as possibly suffering from some depression. His involvement with the reforms are thought to have been more of resignation than approval in nature. The details of his final days at Castel Gandolfo make for some pretty sad reading.

    Jack in KC

  16. Martial Artist says:

    My parish, Blessed Sacrament in Seattle, has a fully sung Tenebrae at 08:00 on all three mornings of the Triduum. We have a fairly large group of parishioners who participate in the Divine Office every weekday morning, joined by more folks for the Triduum. Last year I began the practice of taking annual leave on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to attend all three services, plus Treore on Good Friday. The parish is Dominican, so the Fathers participate in leading some of the chanting (not just during the Triduum—as Dominicans, they are obliged to celebrate the Divine Office, so they do it with the parishioners on a regular basis). The remainder of the chanting is led by our Director of Liturgy and Music, a former Dominican seminarian with the responding side led by the parish’s Musical Associate, who is the founder and Director of The Tudor Choir.

    I intend to do this every one of my remaining years, and, as soon as I retire, to see if we can move close enough to the church that I can join the group participating year round.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  17. uptoncp says:

    I have sung Tenebrae of Good Friday starting at midnight – a small group of us in the chancel, with just the herse, the altar candles, our own candles, and the glow from the Altar of Repose round the corner in the transept (and a little sodium glow through the windows). A magical worship experience which I would recommend to anyone. This was a CofE church, and we had a version in simple plainchant (responsories to psalm tomes) by Frances Burgess (see several recent posts by Jeffrey Tucker on NLM for more of his work). The following evening at 8pm we used the same edition, but with parts of the Lamentations set by Lassus and a Miserere by Palestrina. Again, entirely candlelit, and as well as the herse, two servers gradually extinguished the lights down the nave through the service.

  18. jrotond2 says:

    Even though we do Tenebrae in the morning, the windows and doors of the church are covered in drapes, so that after all the candles and lights are extinguished during the Benedictus, the chapel is completely, pitch dark (at 11am). We in the schola carry pen lights so we can read the chant for the Christus Factus Est.

  19. Sid says:

    I stand corrected about the fact of Bugnini and the 1950s reforms. Thanks, Jack.

    So it looks like there was at least something that Bugnini did that was good; I’ve made the argument for the Holy Thursday Mass and the Easter Vigil Mass being at night.

    I also like the Bugnini reform of the Divine Office — like it a lot. But maybe that’s a rabbit hole.

  20. Mark M says:

    We will be singing Tenebrae (EF) for the Triduum in St Mary’s Metropolitan Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland.

    This wasn’t something we planned for at first, though. This has come on the back of a year of singing monthly Vespers in the Extraordinary Form, various Masses and other events. It’s been hard work!

    If anybody’s interested, more information is available here:

  21. laurazim says:

    Our parish, Cathedral Parish in Madison (Bishop Morlino), holds Tenebrae on Wednesday evening. The tradition here is only a few years old, and the attendance has absolutely sky-rocketed. Seminarians extinguish the candles, the choir sings, cantors sing, and Bishop Morlino offers the prayers. I absolutely love it, and find it to be incredibly powerful. Parish website is http://www.isthmuscatholic.org

    I would be interested to see if we could increase the days, but am doubtful because of the heavy Holy Week schedule already in place. How are other parishes able to incorporate such a heavy load? I’m curious and would love some ideas on how to implement more.

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