The symbolic interplay of light and shadows comes to life in the events of Holy Week. Today, Spy Wednesday, we watch as Judas trades his Master for a pittance, and now looks for an opportunity to betray Jesus. Darkness begins to swallow the Light of the World. We must closely accompany Our Lord through these days of sorrow and glory as He teaches us, by word and deed, the true meaning of life, and love and sacrifice.
Tenebrae, Latin for shadows, is a liturgical service of ancient origin, with beginnings in the fifth century. Celebrated in the evening on Spy Wednesday, Holy Thursday and Good Friday, it anticipates the next day. This rich and beautiful practice has been revived in many dioceses, and we are very blessed to make it a part of our yearly Holy Week devotions. Please consider enriching your Holy Week by attending Tenebrae at Our Lady of the Atonement, beginning this evening at 7pm. Click here for more information and times.
The chant below (see bottom of post) is the Benedictus antiphon from Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday. I wanted to share it, not because of the chant itself, which is beautifully sung, but because the words really struck me when I saw them last night: Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying: Whom I shall kiss, that same is he; hold him fast.
Hold him fast. There are different ways we can hold God. When I hear these words I think of clinging to God, an act of faith, made out of desperation sometimes, but grasping Him firmly because He is your last and only hope. We can hold God like a lover, like a life-preserver, like a friend. But here we see another way to hold him, which has nothing to do with love or devotion: we can hold him fast like a hostage. Our weak faith, our lack of trust in God, our obstinacy in getting our own way, all these tempt us to hold God prisoner. If I can just get a good grip on Him, I’ll get him to see things my way. But we can’t control God or bend Him to our will; it’s fruitless and destructive.
Rather than holding God captive there is a better way: we can let our souls be held captive by Him; to become captivated by His insatiable and enduring love for us – the Love that sustains all other loves, and which led Him to submit Himself to the grasp of sinners.
Tonight, after the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, our Lord will go to the Mount of Olives to meet Judas, and each of us will accompany Him as His Passion begins. He who holds all creation in the palm of His hand willingly gives Himself into the hands of wicked men. As the deepest mysteries of our salvation begin to unfold, let us comfort and console Our Lord by giving ourselves over to Him completely, by letting Him hold us fast.
This was supposed to be a post about Tenebrae. But it just didn’t work out. We would like to say that since moving to San Antonio adding this beautiful devotion to our schedule has really enriched our experience of Holy Week. If you want to know more about it click here and here.
With that, we give you this video of the Tallis Scholars singing the first lamentation for Maundy Thursday, by Tomas Luis de Victoria. No, it’s not something sung at Tenebrae, but since tonight’s office of Tenebrae anticipates Maundy Thursday, it’s sort of related. And it means we can stop feeling guilty about not posting today.