Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What is A Tenebrae?

      Tenebrae (Latin for 'shadows' or 'darkness') is a Christian religious service celebrated by the Western Church on the evening before or early morning of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, which are the last three days of Holy Week. The distinctive ceremony of Tenebrae is the gradual extinguishing of candles while a series of readings and psalms is chanted or recited. In the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church the Tenebrae readings and psalms are those of Matins and Lauds. The Polish National Catholic Church and some churches within the Anglican Communion also observe Tenebrae. The tenebrae service is also used in various Holy Week services among Protestant churches such as Lutheranism, as well as among some denominations of Orthodoxy.

"The Lamb" (John Tavener) Tenebrae Choir.  Nigel Short, director. Supported by Swiss Global Artistic Foundation,

      In the Roman Catholic Church, Tenebrae is the name given to the celebration, with special ceremonies, of Matins and Lauds, the first two hours of the Divine Office, of the last three days of Holy Week. Originally celebrated after midnight, by the late Middle Ages their celebration was anticipated on the afternoon or evening of the preceding day in most places.
Fifteen candles on tenebrae
"hearse". The candles are extin-
guished one by one during the
course of the service.
      The structure of Tenebrae is the same for all three days. The first part of the service is Matins, which in its pre-1970 form is composed of three nocturns, each consisting of three psalms, a short versicle and response, a silent Pater Noster, and three readings, each followed by a responsory. Pre-1970 Lauds consists of five psalms, a short versicle and response, and the Benedictus Gospel canticle, followed by Christus factus est, a silent Pater Noster, a devotional recitation of Psalm 50 (51), Miserere, and the appointed collect.
      The principal Tenebrae ceremony is the gradual extinguishing of candles upon a stand in the sanctuary called a hearse. Eventually the Roman Rite settled on fifteen candles, one of which is extinguished after each of the nine psalms of Matins and the five of Lauds, gradually reducing the lighting throughout the service. The six altar candles are put out during the Benedictus, and then any remaining lights in the church. The last candle is hidden beneath the altar, ending the service in total darkness. The strepitus (Latin for "great noise"), made by slamming a book shut, banging a hymnal or breviary against the pew, or stomping on the floor, symbolizes the earthquake that followed Christ's death, although it may have originated as a simple signal to depart. Following the great noise, the candle which had been hidden from view is returned to the top of the hearse, signifying the return of Christ to the world with the Resurrection, and all depart in silence.

Sir Colin Davis conducts the London Symphony Orchestra, Susan Gritton, Sara Mingardo, Mark Padmore, Alastair Miles and the Tenebrae choir performing Handel's Messiah. Recorded in December 2006.

      The lessons of the first nocturn at Matins are taken from the Book of Lamentations and are sung to a specific Gregorian reciting tone. They have also been set to music by many composers, of whom the most famous are Palestrina, Tallis, Lassus, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, François Couperin, Ernst Krenek (Lamentatio Jeremiae prophetae, op. 93) and Stravinsky (Threni). In addition, the responsories have been set by Lassus, Gesualdo, Victoria and Jan Dismas Zelenka.
      The lessons of the second nocturn are taken from the writings of St. Augustine, and the lessons of the third nocturn from the epistles of Paul the Apostle. These are chanted to the ordinary lesson tone and have been relatively neglected by composers, though there are a few settings by Manuel Cardoso and sets of responsories by Orlando di Lasso and Marc-Antoine Charpentier.
      The High-Renaissance polyphonic choral settings of Lamentations at Tenebrae, culminating in those of Lassus (1584), share the same texts with, but in musical idiom are to be distinguished from, the French Baroque chamber-music genre of Leçons de ténèbres.
      The celebration of Matins and Lauds of these days in the form referred to as Tenebrae in churches with a sufficient number of clergy was universal in the Roman Rite until the reform of the Holy Week ceremonies by Pope Pius XII in 1955. At that time, the Easter Vigil was restored as a night office, moving that Easter liturgy from Holy Saturday morning to the following night; the principal liturgies of Holy Thursday and Good Friday were likewise moved from morning to afternoon or evening, and thus Matins and Lauds were no longer allowed to be anticipated on the preceding evening, except for the Matins and Lauds of Holy Thursday in the case of cathedral churches in which the Mass of the Chrism was held on Holy Thursday morning. The 1960 Code of Rubrics, which is incorporated in the 1962 typical edition of the Roman Breviary, did not allow any anticipation of Lauds, though Matins can still be anticipated to the day before, later than the hour of Vespers. Even at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, where the need to observe a timetable that did not disturb the established rights of other churches forced the timetable of Roman Catholic Holy Week services to remain unchanged, the Office of Tenebrae was abandoned in 1977. But the special rubrics of Tenebrae that once accompanied the celebration of Matins and Lauds, including the ceremony of extinguishing the candles on the hearse, are now sometimes applied to other celebrations, even if these do not consist of a nine-psalm Matins and a five-psalm Lauds.
      The 1970 revision of the Roman Breviary, now called the Liturgy of the Hours, recommends public celebration of the Office of Readings (Matins) and Morning Prayer (Lauds) - what was formerly called "Tenebrae" - for Good Friday and Holy Saturday, Unlike its older form in the Divine Office, the newer form of the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer on these days has no distinctive structure, and there is no extinguishing of candles or lights. The Office of Readings and Morning Prayer is shorter than in the older form, although there is provision for extending the Office of Readings for more solemn occasions. Nevertheless, when the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer is celebrated on these days, some elements of the older form of these offices are often used.
      Summorum Pontificum (2007) permits clerics bound to the recitation of the Divine Office to use the 1962 Roman Breviary, a permission availed of by several religious and secular institutes and societies of apostolic life; but the 1955 and 1960 changes exclude the anticipation of Matins and Lauds to the previous evening, whether celebrated with or without the Tenebrae ceremonies. However, some places hold something similar to the original Tenebrae celebration as an extra-liturgical, devotional service. The content, ceremony, and time of this celebration vary widely.     
The front cover of a Lutheran church
bulletin for Good Friday, describing the
 significance, as well as the summary
 of components, of a typical tenebrae
      The name Tenebrae is also given to various other Holy Week services held by some Protestant churches including the Lutheran, United Methodist, United Church of Christ and Presbyterian churches. Variations of Tenebrae are sometimes celebrated in less formal or non-denominational churches as well. Protestant versions of Tenebrae service, particularly on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, often contain readings from the gospels which describe the time between the Last Supper and the Passion of Christ. Another frequent element in Protestant Tenebrae services is the inclusion of the last seven sayings of Jesus, assembled from the various gospel accounts. Some churches have the people who read scripture snuff out candles and/or drape black cloth over church furnishings and ornamentation when they finish their passage to represent the flight of the disciples and the approach of the dark hate of Jesus' enemies and the Passion of Christ. When the last passage has been read the church or room is completely dark and recalls the days when Jesus was in the tomb. When this is the case, someone such as an acolyte often comes forward and relights a single candle to represent the hope of the prophecy of Easter.
      Another alternative is the service above interwoven in a Last Supper with lamb meat, bitter herbs, and other elements of the Jewish Passover commemoration.
      Sometimes Protestant Tenebrae services involve the participants receiving Communion. When this is the case, some churches have the participants come up front and sit at a table in groups of twelve to receive communion.
      Some Churches of the Anglican communion celebrate Tenebrae with the same rite as Roman Catholics. Anglicans, including the Episcopal Church, usually observe the service on Wednesday in Holy Week, thereby preserving the importance of the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday observances.

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