Wednesday, 1 April 2015
Spy Wednesday Evening
The photograph (of a photograph) above was taken on Spy Wednesday evening 1995 just before the singing of <i>Tenebrae </i>in the Union Debating Chamber of the University of Durham. Twenty years on the 'Glover Triduum' remains one the most remarkable Western liturgical experiences for me, and for many others. It all seems a life-time ago now and yet as of yesterday.
After Compline of Spy Wednesday the Palms that have decorated the church since Sunday are removed. The choir altar retains its violet antependia and the Blessed Sacrament is removed if It is present. The altar cross has been veiled in violet since the beginning of Passiontide but now the plainest candlesticks are set out with candles of unbleached wax. During the late afternoon of Spy Wednesday (following the practice in Rome), or in the early evening, the service of Tenebrae is sung. Tenebrae is Mattins and Lauds, as usual anticipated, of the following liturgical day but the Office of the Triduum shows signs of antiquity and has developed a ceremonial extinguishing of candles that mimetically represent the desertion of the LORD by his disciples and the days of darkness - hence the name. Pius XII's wreckovators of the 1950s completely got this wrong - like so much else - and, following the rationalist ideas expressed by people such as the Jesuit Herbert Thurston in the early years of the twentieth century, decided the candles were merely extinguished as dawn was approaching and the psalmody of Lauds was more familiar so books were not needed. The consequence of these ideas is the spectacle of the new rite service of extinguishing candles at a service often starting at 10:00am, or even earlier, in broad daylight - so much for the supposed 'correct' time of celebration of services! The definitive work on the time of Tenebrae A.J. MacGregor, 'Fire and Light in the Western Triduum', Alcuin Club Collection 71, 1992, demonstrates that Tenebrae was never celebrated in the daylight hours until the Pacellian reform.
In Rome Tenebrae in the Papal Chapel was celebrated very early so the rays of the setting sun would pass through a window of the Sistine Chapel. The Caeremoniale Episcoporum mentions Tenebrae starting progressively later each day of the Triduum. In practice the service 'works best' if it at least ends in near darkness. The church bells are rung today to announce the beginning of the service but are silent for the other two evenings.
In the sanctuary in about the place where the Epistle is sung is placed the Tenebrae hearse. The hearse, for the Roman rite, bears fifteen lighted candles of unbleached wax. The choir enters, seniores ante inferiores, and take their places and kneel to say Aperi, Domine. When the choir rises the sign of the Cross is made as the cantors intone the first antiphon of Mattins, Zelus domus tuae etc. This is sung in full and then the first psalm Salvum me fac, Deus is intoned by the cantors. At the end of the psalm (there is no Gloria Patri during the Triduum) the lowest candle on the Gospel side of the hearse is extinguished. Before the 1911-13 reform the chant books had a special cadence at the end of each psalm, a drop of a fourth, which presumably was an audible indication for the acolyte to extinguish a candle. Then the next antiphon is sung with its psalm etc. After the first three psalms there is a versicle and response and then all stand for a silent Pater noster. During the Triduum there are no absolutions and blessings at Mattins. The psalms of Mattins for Tenebrae on Mandy Thursday are really the first nine of the twelve ferial psalms from the pre-Pius X Breviary for Mattins. In the reformed Breviary they appear 'proper' but are in fact the ancient practice. They are: I nocturn: 68, 69, 70; II nocturn: 71, 72, 73; and III nocturn: 74, 75, 76.
Then follows the Lamentations of Jeremy the Prophet as first nocturn lessons. These are based on a Hebrew acrostic. The first verse thus begins with 'Aleph'. The verses have several special tones in plainsong and have been set to polyphony by various composers. The lessons are sung from a lectern medio chori. A responsory follows the first lessons as usual at Mattins. After the third responsory the second nocturn begins and has lessons from St. Augustine on the psalms. The third nocturn has lessons from St. Paul to the Corinthians on the foundation of the Holy Eucharist. At Tenebrae the Hebdomadarius does not chant the ninth lesson. At the end of Mattins the Tenebrae Hearse has five candles extinguished on the Gospel side and four on the Epistle side with six remaining lit candles.
Lauds follow immediately. The psalms sung at Lauds are Pss. 50, 89, 35, Cantemus Domino, 146. After each psalm of Lauds a further candle is extinguished so that after the last psalm only the candle on the summit of the hearse is still alight. After the last antiphon is repeated a versicle and response follow. Then the antiphon on the Benedictus is intoned, which for Mandy Thursday is Traditor autem dedit eis signum, dicens: Quem osculatus fuero, ispe est, tenete eum. The concept of the betrayal of Judas is key to the day. The plainsong for the Benedictus is the haunting tone 1g. During the last six verses each of the altar candles is extinguished beginning with the outside candle on the Gospel side. All other lamps in the church are now also extinguished. During the repetition of the antiphon the MC takes the candle from the hearse and places it on the mensa at the Epistle corner of the altar. All kneel and the choir now sings Christus factus est pro nobis obediens usque ad mortem. During this antiphon the MC hides the lit candle behind the altar. A Pater noster is now said in a low voice by all and then psalm 50, the Miserere is chanted in a subdued voice. This has been adapted by many composers into polyphonic masterpieces, perhaps the most famous being by Allegri. The Miserere was part of the ferial preces of Vespers until 1911-13. After the Miserere the collect Respice is chanted by the Hebdomadarius still kneeling. Then a strepitus or noise, is made traditionally by banging books against the stalls. On a practical point it is not a good idea to bang a valuable Holy Week book thus - use a '62 one for that purpose and bash it to death.
After the strepitus the MC brings forth the candle and returns this symbol of the light of Christ to the top of the hearse. It either remains there, or is extinguished or, what seems the better practice, is taken by the MC ahead the procession as the choir retires.
In the 'restored' rite found in the 'liturgical books of 1962' the symbolism of the service is completely and utterly lost as the service takes place in broad daylight tomorrow morning, except in Cathedral churches where the Chrism Mass is celebrated. Mattins, and Mattins only, not Lauds, is then anticipated in the Cathedral church due the the Chrism Mass the following morning - quite what one does with the remaining lit candles on the hearse and altar?