Friday, April 10, 2009

Tenebrae at Blackfriars Oxford

Fr Augustine Thompson OP has explained the following about Tenebrae in the Dominican tradition:


The readings of the first nocturn of Tenebrae are from the Lamentations of Jeremiah and have, in our rite, a special and distinctive "funereal" chant. We also have a special, very elaborate chant for the Oratio Jeremiae, the "Prayer of Jeremiah," which was, and may still may be, sung at the service on Holy Saturday. The rituals of Tenebrae are well known to our readers, so I will restrict myself to mentioning only a few Dominican variants: we do not have a special ritual for the 15th or "Jesus" candle, it is neither left burning or hidden. We simply snuff it. And the famous "clamor" made by pounding on the choir stalls with books or other objects is not done. There was great variety in the medieval rite of Tenebrae, and our Office is typical of our Rite in its sobriety of symbols. I understand that in some places the Jesus Candle and the Clamor had been introduced into the Domincian service, but they are not in the Ceremoniale and we never had them in the Western Province. In contrast, however, we have a complex series of invocations and responses in place of the Preces on these days, which can still be used with the Liturgy of the Hours today.

Much of this older tradition is incorporated into Tenebrae as it is celebrated in Dominican houses around the world. The videos here show Tenebrae from the priory of the Holy Spirit (Blackfriars) in Oxford. The singing is not perfect (!) but hopefully it will give you an idea of what the Dominican chant sounds like and how these traditions can be used in the 'modern' liturgy.

The video below shows the Litany-like prayers sung at the foot of the High Altar by the cantors on Maundy Thursday. A translation of the Latin text follows the video.



Lord, have mercy (in Greek & Latin).
Christ the Lord was made obedient unto death.

You who came to suffer for us:
Christ, have mercy.

You who, your arms stretched out on the cross, drew all ages to yourself:
Christ, have mercy.

You who prophesied: 'I will be your death, O Death':
Christ have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ the Lord was made obedient unto death.
Lord, have mercy (in Greek & Latin).
Christ the Lord was made obedient unto death:
even the death of the cross.

Below is a video from Tenebrae of Good Friday, showing two of the Matins responsories, and the Benedictus with its antiphon in English. Bear in mind that the church was completely full on each of these days, and to have the entire congregation chant psalms and antiphons from books with 'square notation' is quite an achievement.



Finally, from Tenebrae of Holy Saturday, we have a video of the Oratio Ieremiae, noted above by Fr Augustine for its beautiful music. The music was sung and pre-recorded by Br Lawrence Lew OP as part of his rehearsal for tomorrow's Office.



The text, taken from Lamentations, chapter 5, runs as follows:

The Prayer of Jeremiah the prophet:

Remember, O Lord, what has come upon us: consider and behold our reproach.
Our inheritance is turned over to aliens, our houses to strangers.
We are become like orphans without a father, our mothers are as widows.
We must pay for the water we drink; the wood we get must be bought.
We are dragged by the neck; no rest is given to the weary.
We have given our hand to Egypt and to the Assyrians to get bread enough.
Our fathers have sinned and are not, and we have borne their iniquities.
Slaves have ruled over us; there was none to redeem us from their hand.
We fetched bread at the peril of our lives because of the sword in the desert.
Our skin is scorched as an oven because of the violence of hunger.
They ravished women in Zion and virgins in the cities of Judah.
Princes were hung up by their hands; no respect was shown to the elders.
Young men were shamefully used and boys collapsed under the loads of wood.
The old men have gone from the gates, young men from the choirs of singers.
All joy is gone from our hearts; our dancing is turned into mourning.
The crown is fallen from our head; woe to us because we have sinned.
For this our heart has become sick; therefore our eyes have grown dim.
Because of Mount Zion that is destroyed jackals prowl all over it.
But you, O Lord, will remain for ever, your throne from generation to generation.
Why do you forget us for ever, forsake us for so many long days?
Restore us, Lord, to you and we shall be restored; renew our days as from the beginning.
But you have utterly rejected us, furiously angry against us.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return to the Lord your God.