Saturday, April 23, 2011

Good Friday*

The traditional Catholic Holy Week ceremonies are among the most beautiful of the whole liturgical year. During the Holy Tridiuum - which is Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday - the recitation of the Divine Office is replaced by the office of Tenebrae, a very solomn series of psalms and antiphones deeply lamenting the death of Christ and His betrayal at the hands of His friends, mitigated by exaultant passage, rejoicing in the triumph of Christ. Tenebrae for Good Friday is particularly dynamic. At the beginning of the service, there is a lighted candleabra before the altar, which is gradually extiguished between the chanting of the office, which focuses primarily on the Passion and Death of Christ. The last candle is extinguished to coincide with the reading of the Death, leaving the church in darkness.... then, in imitation of the earthquake that happened on the first Good Friday, the congregation knocks on the back of the pews, and stomping on the floor. It is incredibly stirring. Here is a video of it on youtube. It is bit on the long side, running to nine minutes or so, but if you skip forward to about 7:45 - 8:00 minutes, you can hear the earthquake.) I have only ever had the chance to attend all of the Holy Week services, including Tenebrae, one time in my life, but it made a tremendous impression on me, and gave me a life long devotion for the Catholic liturgy.

* with apoligies for being late.

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