T E N E B R A E ( ? )
  • We are doing Tenebrae at Walsingham on Wednesday, commonly called Spy Wednesday because of Judas' meeting with the Sanhedrin and subsequent betrayal of his Lord. I have always thought this combination of Matins & Lauds was as potent as any of the year's great liturgical happenings. How many out there are having Tenebrae this year?? I have the impression that more and more parishes are doing it again even though it was (correct me) suppressed by the Council. This means in practice that it no longer must be done, but does not at the same prohibit its being done by those who wish to do it. That, at least, is how the Anglican mind would read it! So, any tenebraes in the land of CMAA?
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    There are lots. If you search you can find full programs available. We used to do it but lately haven't because we've had a hard time sandwiching it into a good parish time.
  • Indeed! Saint Stephen, the First Martyr in Sacramento, CA., sings all three days of Tenebrae though in the mornings of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The first day is the longest, usually almost 3 hours, each day thereafter a little shorter, with Saturday only about two hours. With all the other singing during Holy Week it is always a sacrifice, but a good one, one which none of us would ever give up! Friends fly in from around the country to sing with us, so it is always an opportunity for reunions, or "The Great Liturgical Slumber Party" as one of the cantors styled it. To be frank, there is little slumbering, but lots of chanting!
  • Richard R.
    Posts: 747
    The Council had nothing to say about the practice, certainly not to suppress it.
  • The 1955 Reform of the Roman Holy Week liturgy ended the practice of anticipating the Matins and Lauds of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday on the evenings of Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, respectively.

    These offices were not suppressed. They were moved to Thursday, Friday, and Saturday mornings. I question, however, whether they can rightly be called Tenebrae if they are celebrated in broad daylight.

    The Episcopal Church provides in the BOOK OF OCCASIONAL SERVICES, a form of Tenebrae for use on the evening of Wednesday in Holy Week. It retains the the traditional structure but draws its antiphons, psalms, responsories, and lessons selective from the traditional offices of the three days. This is an extra service and (theoretically) does not take the place of Prayer Book Matins and Evensong.
    I mention this because I wonder whether it would be permissible in the Roman Catholic Church to celebrate Tenebrae on Wednesday evening as a non-liturgical devotion.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,021
    I certainly see no reason not to celebrate it as a para-liturgy. If Wednesday evening is the preferred time, I've often thought that the 3 Tenebrae services should be kept in tact, and rotated along with the 3-cycle.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,365
    Yes, I wondered about how Tenebrae can be celebrated in the morning. In Any case, here at St. Theresa, Houston, we do the Tenebrae for Good Friday and Holy Saturday. One of our parishioners John Burchfield makes a fine worship booklet. We also do a seasonal vespers in Advent and Lent (Shrove Tuesday)
  • At St Stephen's we are bound by the provisions set forth in the motu proprio regarding the traditional Mass and Office, and are bound by the 1962 missal, and therefore the 1955 "restored" Holy Week (see the fantastic articles now on NLM by Gregory Di Pippo about this "resoration"), and therefore are bound to morning celebrations of Tenebrae. Some countries in 1955 petitioned the Holy See in 1955 to be able to celebrate one of the Tenebrae services at night (Australia, for example) and this was granted, however, the US never received this permission.
  • Palestrina
    Posts: 352
    I don't suppose anybody here has notated all the lessons for Tenebrae of Easter Saturday (EF)? Would save me lots of time that I just don't have at the moment and lots of headaches. Hugh - Your booklets worked a treat last year! :)
  • dvalerio
    Posts: 341
    You can find an entire program for the Tenebrae of Saturday, in Gregorian Chant, fully notated, here, as sung in a church in Versailles, France (Ordinary Form, sorry for those who would like the EF).
  • Simon
    Posts: 139
    The Schola Cantorum Amsterdam sung Maundy Thursday's plainsong Tenebrae matins and lauds last evening (Wednesday) in the St. Nicholas church in Amsterdam. The service lasted two and a half hours. We do this annually. In the past we used to sing the services for Good Friday and Holy Saturday as well, but in recent years (the last decade or so actually) other services of the the parish on Thursday and Friday of Holy Week did not permit this.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    We are doing the entire ancient office of Tenebrae for Good Friday, starting one hour before sunrise.

    This will be straight from old Office, with only two changes: we have omitted about a dozen verses from Ps. 21, and we have shortened two of St. Augustine's readings slightly. The old rubrics (so beautifully austere) will apply.

    It takes about two hours to sing, but we are dividing the schola in two and sharing the responsibilities so we can rest our voices at regular intervals. This kind of division has other advantages, chief among them that it reduces the number of responsories a singer has to learn. We also will sing psalm verses in alternatim. The Lamentations will be sung by individual singers.

    This has been a great learning experience for us. I think the chief logistical lesson is that these major offices pretty much require distributed singing.

    Pray that it all goes well tomorrow morning.


    As a combination of Matins and Lauds, ‘Tenebrae’ occurs one hour before dawn and typically lasts two hours.

    The setting is austere: the altar is bare, the statuary veiled. A candelabra with fifteen candles is placed on the altar. Two candlesticks, which remain lighted during the entire office, are placed alongside a central lectern.

    The schola, in cassock or choir dress, processes in silence, reverences the altar, and takes seats to the side, facing each other. All remain standing until the first verse of the first psalm is intoned by a cantor. The people remain seated for the entire office, save for the Pater nosters and Benedictus, during which all stand.

    One candle is extinguished at the conclusion of each psalm.

    It seems advisable for the schola to stand for the Responsories. For them, the singers move to the central lectern, reverence the altar, and turn to face the people. Afterwards, they turn to reverence the altar again and return to their places in choir. Cantors of the Lamentations and readers do the same.

    After the Benedictus, the last remaining candle (still lighted) is hidden behind the altar.

    All stand and immediately kneel during the Christus factus est until the priest or master of ceremonies completes the final prayer.

    After the final prayer, a noise is made, and the last remaining candle is brought from behind the altar. All rise and retire in silence.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    So that uploaded booklet is an .rar file (the only thing this forum will accept) of a PDF.

    Latin and English.

    I'll post source details shortly. IIRC, it's all from a Desclee book (Latin). The English is from a nice little translation the Holy Week Office from Ireland. I had to go to RSV and Douay for Ps. 84 and Canticle of Habacuc, respectively.

    If someone could provide an accurate translation of the final prayer ("Respice") and post it here, I'd be much obliged.

    Eventually, all the Latin psalms will be pointed and accented. As you can imagine, that just takes time. If someone wants the .doc file to work on this, let me know. We could include psalm tone formulas, too.

    Step by step.

    One last thing: would members consider it an organic development of the liturgy to replace the word "Judaei" (in the responsory, Tenebrae factae sunt) with the word "homini"? Such a change would more fully reflect the Magisterium's teaching on that point.
  • This is the translation of the Prayer, "Respice, quaesumus, Domine, super hand familiam tuam..." that is provided in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer:

    "Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross ..."

    A more literal translation would be:

    Look, we ask, O Lord, upon this your family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ did not hesitate to be given into the hands of evil-doers and to undergo the torment of the cross.
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Thanks, Bruce!
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Pes, just uploaded a pdf. not sure what you mean about rar
  • Pes
    Posts: 623
    Must be a problem with my other computer running Windows. I try to upload PDFs, and the forum says it doesn't recognize the file type and demands an "rar" (a proprietary archiving) file. Bleh. It's probably a problem on my end. I just fixed this computer (on which I type this), which had been out of commission for a while -- and it has all my musica sacra files on it! Oy.

    The Tenebrae went well, apart from my train wreck of a solo responsory verse. I am really fortunate to sing with this group of gents. Finally, a Good Friday that felt like a Good Friday.
  • Jeffrey TuckerJeffrey Tucker
    Posts: 3,624
    Our GF was wonderful too. Nearly perfect. All the parish hears and experiences the real stuff, and loves it.
  • Slightly off-topic (strictly speaking), but the Benedictines in Norcia have posted mp3s of Tenebrae on their website.
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    Pes - I feel your pain! I run both IE and Mozilla to get by the problem. Sometimes one will work where the other fails, but there seems to be no rhyme nor reason on any given day. You have to love computers - they give you headaches in seconds that used to take days.
  • gsmisek
    Posts: 7
    Pes wrote: "would members consider it an organic development of the liturgy to replace the word "Judaei" (in the responsory, Tenebrae factae sunt) with the word "homini"? Such a change would more fully reflect the Magisterium's teaching on that point."

    I don't think an "organic development" justifies tinkering with the text of the Church's liturgy (see Sacrosanctum concilium, n. 22.3). However, if the Holy See were to authorize a change in text, I think the natural choice would be "milites" (soldiers); see Mt 27:27, 35; Mk 15:16, 24; Lk 23:33 [36]; and especially Jn 19:23 (“Milites ergo cum crucifixissent eum”). But notice that the point of St. Augustine's reading is that the hostile Jewish authorities and mob crucified Christ just as surely as the soldiers did. See also Jn 19:12, 15, 18 (“Judæi,” “pontifices,” “crucifixerunt eum”).