Friday, March 03, 2017

A Combination Tenebrae Hearse and Paschal Candlestick

From the Facebook page of the Fraternity of St Peter’s English apostolates comes this rather ingenious explanation of how they also use a Tenebrae hearse  as a Paschal candlestick. Although this is written a humorous vein, the device itself is real, as you can see in the pictures below.

Exclusive release by FSSP England [owner of the patent & trademark all over the tradisphere - please use this acronym for your order: tiopcsth]: The two-in-one paschal-candle-stand-tenebrae-hearse!

- What was your inspiration?
- Eco-friendliness matters to us. We wanted to spare the trees! We started with a bulk order of Baronius EF missals for our parishioners, thus avoiding the waste of hundreds of printed Sunday sheets, normally thrown into the bin after being used once only. Then we recycled our palms from last Palm Sunday, according to the EF rubrics stating that those must provide the combustible for the ashes blessed on Ash Wednesday the following year. Lastly, we saved on cleaning agents for our kneeling pads, suggesting people’s knees may rest on them rather than their feet: it made the pads much cleaner and nature-unfriendly detergents were got rid off.

- Thank you for these encouraging examples of liturgical eco-friendliness. We now come to your liturgical revolution. As a reminder for our readers, a tenebrae hearse is the free standing triangular candelabra holding fifteen unbleached candles, extinguished one after the other while singing Matins and Lauds in the Extraordinary Form during the Sacred Triduum. Had you worked on tenebrae hearses before?
- Yes, while in Reading we made a first attempt with wrought iron. It worked well and another church in the South requested to copy it. It is now used in London. But for all our attempts, we could not find a hearse when we moved North. All we had was a good sturdy oak stand for the paschal candle. Rather than have another stand and the triangle made from scratch, we thought it would be much simpler to design only the triangle, so as to rest on the spike of the existing paschal candle stand.

- But where will your paschal candle fit then? Do you have a spare stand for it?
- This is the trick! No need for a second one, as by definition, the paschal candle is never used but after tenebrae are completed. Tenebrae end on Holy Saturday morning. Extinguishing the fifteen candles on the hearse one by one symbolises Christ’s passion and death. (See my note below.) But the paschal candle blessed at the Paschal Vigil symbolises Christ rising. All we need to do is take the triangle off the spike in the morning and set the paschal candle on it instead in the evening. Theologically, it makes a lot of sense to use one and the same stand for the two successive liturgical stages. It is death and resurrection.

- Congratulations! This is a true liturgical revolution. As to the future, if we may enquire, rumour has it that Apple contacted you to produce their next i-hearse...
- We are not at liberty to comment on this. But we invite all to come to St Mary’s Warrington during Holy Week and pray with us for a very soul-friendly Sacred Triduum.

NLM editor’s comment: Traditionally, the extinguishing of the candles during Tenebrae was understood to represent the Apostles and the two Marys, Magdalene and the wife of Cleophas, falling asleep during the Lord’s Passion, while the last candle, which is not extinguished on the hearse, represents Christ Himself, who remains the Light of the World even in His suffering and death. (I once read somewhere that the SRC several times forbade a custom which emerged from this interpretation, that of having a white candle for the last one that is not extinguished, rather than one of unbleached wax.) The removal of the candle and its placement behind the altar during the Miserere at the end of Lauds symbolizes His burial, and taking it out and showing to the people looks forward to the Rsurrection. This tradition would make the use described here even more appropriate, since the Paschal candle would then stand exactly where the last candle stands on the hearse.

It may be objected that a Tenebrae hearse should be very somber and simple, while it is more appropriate that a Paschal candle should be something festive and beautiful, as seen, for example, in the contrast between the two objects in the Roman basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere.

In the case of the two-in-one device seen above, this could easily be remedied by placing decorations on it when it is used as a Paschal candlestick, which was generally done anyway back in the day.

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