Friday, March 25, 2016

Tenebrae at Wyoming Catholic College

This past Wednesday night, the Schola Cantorum at Wyoming Catholic College sang the traditional Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday. It was the fifth year that we have done so, and it has been wonderful to see the growth from year to year. The Schola itself was twice as big in 2016 as in 2012, and the congregation about four times as large. The psalm singing has gotten better as we grow ever more accustomed to the psalm tones and texts, and the faithful in the pews, who have all the psalms in booklets, voluntarily sang along quite well.

For me, this prompted a couple of heartening reflections. The first is simply that our Holy Mother Church gives us so many incredibly beautiful resources for entering into the mystery of Our Lord Jesus Christ -- if only we would use them! Yes, it takes time and effort and planning, as a 2 1/2 hour service of chant is not something one can create at the drop of a hat. But it is worth it in the end. The singers themselves feel that the Lord has worked in and through them. The people are edified, their hearts immersed in the Passion. The inherent sacredness and sanctifying power of these services draws in the faithful who are seeking for ways to observe the Triduum with great devotion. In short: we do not need to invent new things; we need to rediscover old things that always worked and will always work, wherever men and women are hungering for God.

The second is that the best and deepest things take time to assimilate, to understand, to perfect. When it comes to liturgy in particular, we have to fight tooth and nail against the modern spirit of immediate gratification and quick results. When we first did Tenebrae in 2012, we could barely chant the chants, let alone follow all the texts. The people stumbled over the psalms. It was not exactly elegant. But we did it anyhow because we saw it as a mountain worth climbing, no matter how many bruises along the way. The next year it was a little easier; one felt oriented and clued in. The year after, the psalm tones came more naturally and the responsories felt like old acquaintances. A year later, more fellows were volunteering to sing the nine readings. This year, for the first time, I was not worrying about the music and found myself drawn deeply into the meaning of the psalms and readings. It took me five years to get to that point. It's like a treasure chest containing the most exquisite treasure, but locked with formidable locks. You work at it patiently because you know that the yield is worthwhile.

Nothing valuable comes cheaply. Many people, maybe even most people, value a challenge that corresponds to their dignity, calls upon all their powers, rewards their efforts. People see this in comparing Tridentine altar serving with non-Tridentine. The former is much more demanding, takes an investment of time, requires precision, thoughtfulness, and obedience to commands -- but the boys and young men go in for that, thrive on it. The latter is easy by comparison, but it can be harder to fill the ranks. If we pay attention to the way human beings are made and what calls forth their greatest potential, we will see anew the wisdom of the Church in placing at our disposal such hard-won treasures.

Below are photos from successive years. (One will notice the unsightly green carpet in 2012; the pastor shortly thereafter replaced it with marble tiles -- for the "brick by brick" file.)

And now some photos from this year:


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