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Monday, October 16, 2006

It's a little out of season...

A short reflection on Tenebrae that I wrote for a spiritualiy class this year. Errors are not intentional!

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, convértere ad Dominum Deum tuum!

The Maundy Thursday and Holy Saturday Office of Tenebrae were solemnly celebrated according to the Classical Roman Rite during Holy Week at St Aloysius’ Caulfield, on the nights of Wednesday and Good Friday, respectively. The Hours of Matins and Lauds throughout the Sacred Triduum most sublimely voice the Church’s mourning over the Passion and Burial of the Lord. They have traditionally been treated as a ‘funeral service’ for Christ. The entire tone of the Office is intensely sorrowful in both its words and neumes, there is no Alleluia, nor Gloria Patri. The ancient structure of the Office, with lessons from the Lamentations of Jeremias, St Augustine, and St Paul, has remained in its integrity since the eighth century.

Our Shepherd, the fountain of living water is gone, wails the Church, at Whose departure the sun was darkened. The candles that illuminate the altar will be gradually extinguished until there is but one that remains lit. In like manner, on that very night, the Apostles had left Our Lord. Again and again, the people echo the words of Christ, one of My disciples will betray me this day, it had been better for him if he had not been born. The single light, the lux vera, will be extinguished, too. And so it is, with a sudden and violent swipe, the terrible darkness is complete; the Light, it seems, has been conquered. A dreadful noise fills the church signifying nature’s revolt at such an awful sight. For the day of the Lord is come, great and exceedingly bitter. Our Shepherd, the fountain of living water is gone. He is gone to take captive [he] who held the first man captive, to destroy the dungeons of hell, and overthrow the pains of the devil.

A mystical cry of victory rises from the silence of the darkness, O mors, ero mors tua, mersus tuus ero, inferne! Meanwhile, the people rise and leave in silence. It is good to wait with silence for the salvation of God. There is something disturbing about this darkness that strikes one still. We are tired with mourning, and our eyes are strained and sore. Of course, Christ will rise from the dead, so why not rest in hope? There is something profound about the Office of Tenebrae that is awfully difficult to express outside of the experience of prayer. It may be likened to the experience of the women, sitting at the sepulchre, who mourned, weeping for the Lord. Were those tears that were shed, shed for them, or for the predicament of the world without the Lord? The Church does understand this Holy Office as a similar vigil before the tomb of Christ. Perhaps the ‘sting’ of Tenebrae is the realisation that the world continues to love the darkness that the Church so sorely laments, and while in such a state, the Creator will remain as unknown to the creatures whom He made, and to the world in which He dwelt, as surely as the truth of the Resurrection.

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