Tenebrae, continued

I am including a short clip of one of the friars extinguishing a candle on the Tenebrae hearse following chanting of a psalm this morning.

And I will be on retreat at our Santa Sabina Center in San Rafael through Sunday. So there will be a short break in posting.

Blessed Easter to all.

What is Tenebrae?

This is an example of a 15 candle tenebrae hearse.

Tenebrae is a series of prayer services from a very old monastic practice which is done during the Triduum, or the three days preceding Easter. It is practiced at the time of morning prayer, and if you happen to be part of a Dominican parish, the friars are likely to make this a part of the parish’s prayer experience on these very holy days. Psalms are chanted (Gregorian chant), and there are a series of three lessons from the Lamentations of Jeremiah that are also chanted.

A candelabra (the tenebrae “hearse”) of 15 candles is lit prior to the beginning of the service, and as the psalms and lessons are chanted, the candles are gradually extinguished, leaving the church in semi-darkness at the end.  Tenebrae is Latin for “shadows” or darkness”.

The solemness of this service always moves me, and I look forward to participating in Tenebrae at St. Dominic’s Church in San Francisco each year. This year I’ll be singing Lesson II from Lamenations 1:4-6. The psalm tones are particularly poignant and assist these passages to invite us to share in the sufferings of all those who are in anguish and to hold them in our hearts as we enter into these days of remembering the suffering of Christ. We remember that Christ’s suffering still continues among so many on our planet.

The roads to Zion mourn, for none come to the appointed feasts;
all her gates are desolate, her priests groan;
her maidens have been dragged away, and she herself suffers bitterly.
Her foes have become the head,
her enemies prosper because the Lord has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions;
her children have gone away, captives before the foe.
From the daughter of Zion
has departed all her majesty.
Her princes have become like harts that find no pasture:
they fled without strength before the pursuer.
Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
return to the Lord your God.

For more information about Tenebrae, please go to this link provided by St. Dominic’s Church in Benicia.

What is Spy Wednesday?

You may have never heard of the name Spy Wednesday.  It is the day before Holy Thursday, and with the Gospel reading from John 12, we remember Judas’ betrayal of his friend Jesus. We hear him say, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you.”

So as we remember this betrayal, we can imagine what that treachery felt like to Jesus.
We might also remember times we have felt betrayed or betrayed others.
We can hold in prayer those who are experiencing the pain of betrayal this day.

And most importantly, we can remember the forgiveness that God offers all of us.

On this Spy Wednesday, I look out my window at the trees in bloom and am reminded of the Hope of Sunday.



We Remember

Last night at Dominican University Father Joe Aleugaray shared a story about distilling the message of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures to one  word. Apparently someone once asked a rabbi to do exactly that. His answer was the word “remember“.  Father Joe expanded on this and proposed, that, as we listen to the readings from both testaments, we too are called to remember.

I was glad to be reminded that this Holy Week is a week of remembering.

On Monday we remember Mary’s caring anointing of Jesus’ feet.
 On Tuesday we remember how Jesus broke bread with those he knew would betray and deny him
On Wednesday we remember the betrayal of Jesus by Judas 
On Thursday we remember Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and his Last Supper
On Friday we remember Jesus death on the cross
On Saturday we wait so that . . .
. . . on Sunday we can remember the Hope that Jesus’ resurrection offers us.

I’ve been quoting Desmond Tutu this week:

“Nothing can be more hopeless than Good Friday; but then Sunday happens.
You can’t but be a prisoner of hope.”

That is why we can say
– no matter where we are
– no matter our circumstances
– whether we are experiencing a Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, or Annunciation moment,

“Let us remember that we are in the Holy Presence of God.”

We remember from the Gospel of John. "In most solemn truth I tell you that unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains what it was--a single grain; but that if it dies, it yields a rich harvest."

A Holy Week Prayer

Jesus, on the eve of your passion and death, you found comfort in the company of your friends. In the truest sign of friendship, you gave your life for them and for us. Help us to live the call of the gospel more deeply. Let our relationship with one another be a sign of your presence. Help us to live and die in your love, that we may live with you forever. Amen.

The above prayer is found in People’s Companion to the Breviary.

The Reluctant Prophet also Gives a Promise of Hope

It may have seemed to his listeners that Jeremiah, whom they called “Terror-All-Around”, had nothing to offer but bad news. But in today’s reading from the 31st chapter of the Book of Jeremiah we read:

Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, proclaim it on distant isles, and say: 

The one who scattered Israel, now gathers them together and guards them as a shepherd the flock. The Lord shall ransom Jacob and redeem him from the hand of his conqueror. Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion, they shall come streaming to the Lord’s blessings: the grain, the wine, and the oil, the sheep and the oxen. Then the young women shall make merry and dance and young men, and old as well.

I will turn their mourning into joy. I will console and gladden them after their sorrows.

– Jeremiah 31:10-13

The heights of Zion National Park in Utah.

A Prophet’s Job Surely Isn’t Easy

In Friday’s reading (Jeremiah 20:10-13) for the 5th Friday in Lent, the Prophet Jeremiah was sure having a bad day. Of course, if we read the entire book attributed to him, we’ll see that he suffered ridicule and persecution for more than a day. And how would any of us like it if our enemies AND our friends coined the nickname for us “Terror-All-Around”? They must have thought he was the bearer of bad tidings.

In spite of his experience of persecution, Jeremiah could still say: Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for God has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked. May we have the courage to be prophetic, and may we always remember the source of our strength and our hope, for a prophet’s job surely isn’t easy.

The Salt Flats of Nevada are pretty desolate. Yet there is life and beauty.
Let us remember life and beauty in our times of dryness.
And to do so, let us cherish them now.


We Hold onto the Promise in Hope

On the 5th Thursday of Lent we read from today’s passage from Genesis 17 of God’s faithfulness

I will maintain my covenant with you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting pact, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now staying, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession; and I will be their God.”

We hold onto this promise in these last weeks of Lent.
We hold onto this promise in the times of dryness.
We hold onto this promise in hope.

Sister Adele Rowland, OP, named this image "Counterpoint".

Sister Adele gave the name Counterpoint Images to her particular technique of creating the photo montage (long before there was even a thought of Photoshop). These counterpoint images showed the genuine relationship between the juxtaposed elements. And it is the authenticity of this relationship which underlies the integrity of her montages – the final image presenting a living, organic, coherent whole.

The Truth Will Set Us Free

Today’s Gospel reading from John, chapter 8 includes:

Jesus said to those Jews who believed in him,
“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Canyon Lands meadow
May these last weeks of Lent bring us to an ever more free place within ourselves.

Loving God’s Creation

I remember reading Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov when I was in high school. If there were quotes like this in Dostoevsky’s books, I missed them entirely. Of course I was 18, and likely not looking in the same way. It is wonderful to read them now!

Love all that has been created by God, both the whole and every grain of sand. “
Love every leaf and every ray of light.
Love the beasts and the birds, love the plants, love every separate fragment.
If you love each separate fragment,
you will understand the mystery of the whole resting in God.

– Fyodor Dostoevsky

Love each flower and petal.