During the Sacred Triduum , the Matins (now the Office of readings) and Lauds (Morning Prayer) of the Divine Office are often sung in a service known as the Tenebrae service. The service is named Tenebrae because is celebrated in darkness, the name comes from the Latin word for darkness.
During the Matins (now the Office of readings) on Good Friday, one by one, the candles are extinguished in the Church, leaving the congregation in total darkness, and in a silence that is punctuated by the strepitus (a loud clatter intended to evoke the earthquake that was said to happen at the moment of death) meant to evoke the convulsion of nature at the death of Christ. It has also been described as the sound of the tomb door closing.
(adapted from catholic.org)
from the Sisters of Carmel:
The Agony in the Garden The name “Tenebrae” has been given because this Office is celebrated in the hours of darkness, formerly in the evening or just after midnight, now the early morning hours. There is an impressive ceremony, peculiar to this Office, which tends to perpetuate its name. There is placed in the sanctuary, near the altar, a large triangular candlestick holding fifteen candles. At the end of each psalm or canticle, one of these fifteen candles is extinguished, but the one which is placed at the top of the triangle is left lighted. During the singing of the Benedictus (the Canticle of Zachary at the end of Lauds), six other candles on the altar are also put out. Then the master of ceremonies takes the lighted candle from the triangle and holds it upon the altar while the choir repeats the antiphon after the canticle, after which she hides it behind the altar during the recitation of the Christus antiphon and final prayer. As soon as this prayer is finished, a noise is made with the seats of the stalls in the choir, which continues until the candle is brought from behind the altar, and shows, by its light, that the Office of Tenebrae is over.
One of the customs of Saint Lucy’s Day (shortly after Christmas) was to plant some wheat seeds. The plants will then be presented in procession at Easter, it’s not seen everywhere but it is a custom. The gospel today mentions a seed that is planted and dies, but then bears much fruit. It is the reminder of the Passion of Christ. Passiontide begins today, and this day is marked by the covering of the church’s statues. The Church begin its process of dying, so that the Light may be seen at Easter. The artist’s Christo and Jean-Claude use to wrap things, buildings and such. They were famous, I wonder if they have ever wrapped statuary during Passiontide in Church? I wonder if they found it inspirational.
Today’s vigil Mass occurred on a saints feast day, it was Saint Patrick’s Day. On this twilight there was an abundance of green in the pews. What a contrast with the congregation tinted green. Such a contrast against the Church and clergy’s violet. Violet is the color of the Lenten Season. The contrast of green and purple are so similar of another day, Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday. Both Patrick’s day and Mardi Gras are days of great revelry. They are days of party and drink and music. Patrick’s day celebrates heritage more than a saint, Mardi Gras celebrates itself more than Lent. Funny how Patrick’s day could not be quieted to celebrate Passiontide. Patrick himself would have approached Passiontide with great sobriety and reverence. Fat Tuesday used to end with the strict fasting season that began on Ash Wednesday. It’s hard to pass on a good time. It’s hard to be that seed buried, to succumb to a death that promises life.
In pondering Passiontide, ponder a war. The war in Syria. Think of the death and destruction and greed and hatred and the pain and the horror that exists there today. Also think of when the last bomb falls and the last vulgarity spoken and the last bit of hatred spewed, when everything once worth possessing becomes worthless. One is this season, the other the beginning of the next. That is the great battle of this season, it is the great battle between God and Satan. It is no small event, but some miss that. There is a battle that occurs before the Cross, and Passiontide is a reminder of that battle. Palm Sunday is next Sunday, the parade is about to begin
Much of the Office of Readings for the past days has focused on Moses and the Book of Leviticus. In that book much of the rules of behavior are described, it is a book of laws. Those commands describe an ethics, and that ethical standard was different from the people that surround them. It is what distinguished and defined them. In an essence it describes who they were, it answered the fundamental question of “Who am I.” Interesting they received those commands from one named I AM. Who am I? I am a Christian.
Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute,
and when the demon had gone out,
the mute man spoke and the crowds were amazed.
Some of them said, “By the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons,
he drives out demons
That is a little sniper of the gospel. Two things happen. First Jesus drives out a demon and second an argument begins. Today the argument might be called a debate, but whatever. Sides are taken, one side is right and the other wrong but neither will admit it. What modern analogy comes to mind? CNN versus FOX NEWS is one. The point is Jesus still drives out demons, and people still argue about it. Perhaps that is good. Vigorous arguments look at all sides if an issue. Good arguments prosecute and defend, they are well thought out. In the end all points are considered before a verdict is reached. The process can be perfect and it can be perfectly perverted. A good debate can be swayed by money and power and influence: a good debate can be perverted when the only consideration is winning, a good debate can lose sight of what it originally had sought. It can become blinded to the truth. The crowd missed the miracle of the cured mute, to them the wrong side had won. Did someone forget to let go of their ego?
I didn’t write for the second Sunday of Lent, the reading was the account of the Transfiguration. I have written about this before. My simple thought was that God reveals Himself to man, to everyone. We don’t always look or know what to do, but God does make His presence known. They are epiphanies. They are the Light that guides and gives strength when everything goes dark. They are the light that guides one through despair just as the Transfiguration was a Light to guide the Apostles through the Passion of Christ.