Tenebrae leads University into the Triduum


tenebraeThe Schola Cantorum Franciscana celebrated the service of Tenebrae on Wednesday night before the Triduum.

The service – the name of which means “shadows” or “darkness” in Latin – is a liturgy which dates to the Middle Ages, said Schola director Paul M. Weber, who holds a doctorate in musical arts.

The service is an extension of the office of matins, which heralds the Triduum, the three days preceding Easter. Tenebrae is a vigil service for the next day and often a total of three services are held, but due to the Easter recess the Schola only performs the Thursday service, held Wednesday night.

The cycle consists of three sets each of three psalms and three lessons. The lessons for Holy Thursday come from the lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah, the writings of St. Augustine, and the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians. The psalms started with Psalm 73.

After each psalm, one of nine candles is extinguished. There is a final candle that is not extinguished, but hidden, then brought back into the open. This final candle represents the “Light of Christ,” and is hidden and revealed to represent the time between His death and resurrection.

The service ends with a strepitus, which means “clamor” or “panic” said Weber. Typically a loud noise, the Schola created it by stomping on the raised platform they were standing on. The strepitus occurs while the last candle is hidden to symbolize the chaos of a world without Jesus Christ.

The Schola put a vast amount of practice into the service. Sophomore soprano Jessica Wasko said that they had been practicing for “at least a month and a half, probably more.”

Weber said that he starts the Schola rehearsing for Tenebrae very early in the spring semester. “We’ve been working on it for years, actually, but every year, we tweak it and make it closer to what the office should be.”

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