Tenebrae: Shadows and Darkness

Tonight, our Catholic collaborative parishes will host a Tenebrae service of worship. Latin for darkness or shadows, Tenebrae invites us to prayerfully reflect on Christ’s pain and suffering the day of His crucifixion through both music and readings. One of the most conspicuous features of the Tenebrae service is the gradual extinguishing of candles as well as the pauses for silent prayer.  In contrast to the celebration of Easter, the mournful tone of Tenebrae enables us to enter into the reason for our hope and joy through these expressions of grief.

The service is typically divided into eight parts, an Evening Office prayer and seven Day Offices or prayers: Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline.  The first part consists of  three nocturns each composed of 3 psalms with responses and three lessons, which are taken either from scripture or from the Church Fathers.  The second part has 5 psalms, verse and response, a Benedictus song reflecting on the birth of John the Baptist and a Pater reflection on the death of our Lord. This dramatic service even includes a loud noise to indicate the earthquake that occurred when Christ died. After each of these sections of psalms and prayers a candle is extinguished until the church is left in relative darkness and silence.

 

It is an intentional glance forward as we begin our journey through the liturgical celebrations for Holy Thursday and Good Friday culminating in the joyful celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior. Please accept this as your invitation to join us tonight or participate in a Tenebrae service near you if you are able.  May God bless you all in this most sacred of weeks!

Peace,

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Entering In

Since I was small child, springtime has always been a celebration of life. This I found especially true in the South where tulips, irises, and lilies make their way early on through winter’s barren landscape.  And always so anxious to see this sight, I all too neglected to stop and befittingly reflect on the season left behind. Easter too, as a young Southern Baptist, also entailed this liturgically forward press towards life. Though perhaps not intentionally, it had become for many a celebration of the risen Christ, without the full look back at the steps that had brought us there. Amidst the shopping for the perfect Easter dress, coloring eggs, and the plan for dinner there were ample days left bereft of the journey our savior walked.

While these same observations could be made of any of us at a given time, there is within the Catholic faith the graced gift and provision of Holy Week that allows us to enter in. It is the invitation to enter into not only the celebration of life but also into the sacred mystery of Christ’s death. From the swaying of branches and cheers of “Hosanna!” on Palm Sunday to Easter we are beckoned to walk beside, and accompany Jesus on the journey ahead. From humble students of the suffering servant and participants in the first Eucharist, we are summoned to share in his anguish in the garden and keep watch. For, the enemies are pressing in and the time draws near when His sacrifice will be for all the world to see.

This incomparable spotless lamb, this gift of a Father’s love given so that we may come to know what love truly is, entreats our response. For, how can we ever truly comprehend or appreciate our redemption if we deny ourselves this time with Jesus on the way to the cross? Or the repose with Mary and John at the sight of God’s only son, crucified and suspended by the weight of the world? To do so is a privilege, one bought and paid for over two thousand centuries ago, and yet a sacred journey that we are each year implored to once again enter into.

Today as an adult, I not only joyously await the liveliness and celebration of Easter but indeed Holy Week itself. In fact, I have come to truly cherish the quiet time spent in church in anticipation before each Triduum Mass. Here I mentally walk through each liturgical motion and its significance as I pause to consider the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior. Such a incredible faith tradition we have where Christ’s presence can so fully be experienced! Please accept this gracious invitation to participate in the Triduum, from Holy Thursday, Good Friday to Easter Vigil.

Reflect:

Am I merely walking through the motions of this Lenten season? Is my gaze so fixed on the Resurrection that I am failing to enter into the mystery of Christ’s Passion and death?

Peace,

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A Stop at Bethany, on the Way to the Cross.

This week of Lent we are led to with Christ and his disciples down a path of growing awareness, one in which each  is contributing towards something fully unknown and yet momentous. Perhaps our familiarity with the story deafens us to truly hearing the significance of the words and numbs us to the fear, anxiety and profound pain at what is to come. Yet, this week we are summoned to do just this. We are to allow ourselves to be immersed in the details, to become a part of the scene, and to experience the depth of the Passion-ate love God has for each of us.

As we make our own preparations this week, we are invited to sit too at table with Jesus at the home of his friend Lazarus in Bethany (John 12: 1-11).

As you look around the room, would you be helping Mary in the kitchen in preparing the food for all the guests that had come? Perhaps serving or greeting each so that all feel included? While part of you longs to truly enjoy the company of Jesus you also recognize that your gift of service is the way you have chosen to show your love for him.

Or possibly you would have chosen to carry that immensely extravagant gift of aromatic oil to anoint the feet of Jesus? Oh, the fragrant almost intoxicating smell that suddenly fills the room! Yes, there are drying cloths to be found somewhere, and yet the closeness of his love compels the use of the soft silky strands of your own hair.

“There is honestly no place I had rather be, and here there is only You- the one who has captured and transformed my inmost being”.


Maybe you are feeling a bit like Judas, uneasy at all the attention that Jesus is drawing?  Why can’t we do all of this in private? Do we need to display our faith for all those that do not even believe..that appear to be here simply due to the newsworthiness of it all? This money we are frivolously spending to feed and entertain this gathering is that which we will need to flee when all of this comes to its inevitable end.

How fickle my heart, oh the weakness I show.  Why can’t I grasp the importance Jesus is calling to this moment and partake in the richness of the aroma that marks a time I will never have again?

Or perchance you have arrived at this place purely out of curiosity, one of the many wanting to hear the rabbi and teacher so many have spoken of. What of Lazarus, was he really once dead and if so what does he have to say of that time? Seeing the devotion of those around Jesus you wonder what draws them close, endearing them to leave behind all to follow. Beckoned in, you take a step closer, but still are unsure if you are willing to surrender all that you’ve known- to commit to that which is far greater than yourself.  You say let it go. Yet, if you did, who would you become?

As we too enter the holiest of weeks, we are asked to pay attention to the sights, sounds and inner callings of our hearts.   Amidst the business of preparations, we are asked to see the love in our gift of service and also take the time to sit at the feet of Jesus even if for a moment. To proclaim our faith in an unbelieving world, knowing that though this life ends there is something much greater that is to come.  Not merely standing at the water’s edge we are being asked to plunge deep in committing ourselves fully the life of a disciple.  This is the invitation. Come join me as I seek to walk the way of  the cross and joyously anticipate the sight of the empty tomb! God’s blessings for a beautiful awe inspiring Holy Week!

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Holy Week-A Behind the Scenes Glimpse

The sights, sounds and scents of Holy Week that so permeate our remembrance of Easter are indeed rooted in centuries of tradition. One look around and one immediately sees layers of history and meaning in every ritual movement, prayers embedded within the hearts of a people of faith.  From the swish of the robes, to the smell of frankincense and lilies, and the lofty notes of the Exsultet sung we are drawn into the sacredness of this moment in time. More than a sign, these symbols call us to look beyond the object itself to something deeper, more meaningful, and often mysterious to be truly experienced in this same multi-layered way.

Was there one special moment that stood out for you? Did you feel the invitation to connect, to go deeper and answer God with the fullness of your heart?

After countless Triduum masses, I have found that only rarely is the answer ever the same. That is the beauty of opening yourself up to the experience of the mysteries of Holy Week again and again. Personally, I never tire of hearing the profound impressions and recollections that are taken forth from a mass. Or even the silent expression of joy or love that rests of the faces of those in attendance as they leave the doors of the church.

This all happens in spite of our best efforts, our missteps and last minute adjustments made in the course of preparation of the mass. God perfects and works through all of our faults to reach out to each person gathered in community. If but for an instant, I am certain of the unworthiness of my own efforts I am also reminded of the One far greater than myself. For that I am so truly thankful!

(The Columbus Dispatch / Alex Holt)

With that being said..those that serve for these masses carry with them the stories of errors and omissions and how God worked through all for good. One such year, due to windy weather, the option to light the Pascal fire indoors was made. Needless to say, the addition of extra isopropyl alcohol was a perfect mix to set off the silent smoke alarms, thereby alerting the fire department. The dark church, gathered for Easter Vigil, was filled with swirling red lights, and the entrance of several concerned firemen. All this unbeknownst to our beloved priest who was enthralled in singing the Exsultet and had his back to the congregation. None noted that evening that this detracted from the mass, but had in fact added to the sense of community already present.

I thought of this story as we were waiting to make the call for the fire at this year’s Easter Vigil with the promise of high winds throughout the day. Though this concern was averted, just minutes before the start of mass we found ourselves furiously working to put together more individual votive candles. The box of holders, placed near the ceiling could only be reached with the hook of the snuffer and the long arm of the priest…while standing on the counter top!

“Ministranti-ctyrak” by OndraZ

 With God’s presence as the only guarantee- through the years, I have determined these are my top 5 tips for altar servers.

  1. In serving, it’s all about what God does in the celebration of the mass. Work as if to blend into the scene. Be well rested, fed, on time, and joyful.
  2. There is a significant need for ponytail holders. Why? Because, girls, the overabundance of candles present at Holy Week and long hair do not mix well.
  3. Thurifers: Do not rest the thurible on the carpet or under the hem of the your robe. There is no need for a new martyr of the faith due to complacency.
  4. Do your best and give God the rest. Rather than becoming anxious over what you did or failed to do, let God work through it.
  5. Sing and pray- You are there to serve but it’s important that you too recognize the invitation to participate and pause for God’s voice.

With Easter Joy,

Signature

Holy Week: A Behind the Scenes Glimpse

The sights, sounds and scents of Holy Week that so permeate our remembrance of Easter are indeed rooted in centuries of tradition. One look around and one immediately sees layers of history and meaning in every ritual movement, prayers embedded within the hearts of a people of faith.  From the swish of the robes, to the smell of frankincense and lilies, and the lofty notes of the Exsultet sung we are drawn into the sacredness of this moment in time. More than a sign, these symbols call us to look beyond the object itself to something deeper, more meaningful, and often mysterious to be truly experienced in this same multi-layered way.

Was there one special moment that stood out for you? Did you feel the invitation to connect, to go deeper and answer God with the fullness of your heart?

After countless Triduum masses, I have found that only rarely is the answer ever the same. That is the beauty of opening yourself up to the experience of the mysteries of Holy Week again and again. Personally, I never tire of hearing the profound impressions and recollections that are taken forth from a mass. Or even the silent expression of joy or love that rests of the faces of those in attendance as they leave the doors of the church.

This all happens in spite of our best efforts, our missteps and last minute adjustments made in the course of preparation of the mass. God perfects and works through all of our faults to reach out to each person gathered in community. If but for an instant, I am certain of the unworthiness of my own efforts I am also reminded of the One far greater than myself. For that I am so truly thankful!

(The Columbus Dispatch / Alex Holt)

With that being said..those that serve for these masses carry with them the stories of errors and omissions and how God worked through all for good. One such year, due to windy weather, the option to light the Pascal fire indoors was made. Needless to say, the addition of extra isopropyl alcohol was a perfect mix to set off the silent smoke alarms, thereby alerting the fire department. The dark church, gathered for Easter Vigil, was filled with swirling red lights, and the entrance of several concerned firemen. All this unbeknownst to our beloved priest who was enthralled in singing the Exsultet and had his back to the congregation. None noted that evening that this detracted from the mass, but had in fact added to the sense of community already present.

I thought of this story as we were waiting to make the call for the fire at this year’s Easter Vigil with the promise of high winds throughout the day. Though this concern was averted, just minutes before the start of mass we found ourselves furiously working to put together more individual votive candles. The box of holders, placed near the ceiling could only be reached with the hook of the snuffer and the long arm of the priest…while standing on the counter top!

“Ministranti-ctyrak” by OndraZ

 With God’s presence as the only guarantee- through the years, I have determined these are my top 5 tips for altar servers.

  1. In serving, it’s all about what God does in the celebration of the mass. Work as if to blend into the scene. Be well rested, fed, on time, and joyful.
  2. There is a significant need for ponytail holders. Why? Because, girls, the overabundance of candles present at Holy Week and long hair do not mix well.
  3. Thurifers: Do not rest the thurible on the carpet or under the hem of the your robe. There is no need for a new martyr of the faith due to complacency.
  4. Do your best and give God the rest. Rather than becoming anxious over what you did or failed to do, let God work through it.
  5. Sing and pray- You are there to serve but it’s important that you too recognize the invitation to participate and pause for God’s voice.

With Easter Joy,

Signature