Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tenebrae at WCC

For the third year running, students at Wyoming Catholic College met on Wednesday of Holy Week to sing the traditional Tenebrae office for Maundy Thursday. The schola led the chanting and the faithful in the pews joined in the antiphonal psalmody. The service lasted a little over two hours.

Once again, I was carried away by how beautiful and rich Tenebrae is, both in its music and in the texts, especially the poignant lections and responsories. The Lamentation tone is perhaps the most exquisite psalm tone of all, in its strange combination of sweetness and detached observation of destruction. The continual focus on Judas, the wicked tradesman (mercator pessimus), restless and vigilant while the other disciples sleep, brings us into the heart of denial, despair, and the urgent call to repentance before it is too late. The psalms of the three nocturns oscillate between utter dereliction and cosmic triumph. The entire service plunges one into the Passion like few other liturgical ceremonies can do. We need a major revival of Tenebrae throughout the church!

I was touched by the comment of a friend. His little girl had begged him to bring her to Tenebrae again because of the big banging in the dark at the end (the strepitus). But, trooper that she was, she had to listen to a lot of psalmody, antiphons, readings, and responsories before we ever got to the strepitus -- and she enjoyed the whole experience.

Below are a few photos, courtesy of Rob Bolin.

In the Second Nocturn

Singing a Responsory


Chanting the Benedictus

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