Having traveled through Lent, we arrive at last at Holy Week. I want to encourage you to come to some and maybe even all of the holy days of the Sacred Triduum – Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. As we pray and fast together, we join our penance with the sufferings of the Lord and anticipate the celebration of His resurrection.
In union with the Church worldwide, we are also offering a couple of traditional devotions and prayers of the Triduum. The first of these is Tenebrae. Tenebrae is tied to the prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours – the prayers offered by priests, religious and faithful daily throughout the world.
In particular, Tenebrae is a sort of a joining of the evening prayer of the Wednesday before the Triduum and the morning prayer of Holy Thursday. In addition to the psalms, traditionally chanted, there are two special elements to Tenebrae. One is the hearse – which in this usage refers to the 15-candle arrangement which is lit at the beginning of the service. A candle is extinguished after each prayer, with the final candle being hidden at the end. Another element is the strepitus (Latin: 'loud noise') – which is made at the end of the prayer, evoking the closing of the tomb. After the strepitus is made, the final candle is brought out and all depart in silence. As you can imagine, the tenor is one of sobriety and reflection, inviting us to reflect on the mysteries of the Triduum to come.
The other devotion we are offering is the Tre Ore service, Latin for 'three hours', this service is one of prayer and reflection on the seven last words of Christ. The 'words' are really the seven last utterances (more than one word!) of the Lord.
Tradition holds that Christ hung up on the cross for three hours – from noon until 3 PM, and so we hold the service at that same time. After each reading, a brief homily is offered and time given for those present to pray over what they have heard. The Blessed Sacrament is exposed for adoration and confessions will be heard for those who would like to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation at that time. We will conclude with the Stations of the Cross at 3PM.
Though traditional, these devotions are new to many. In any case, these devotions and the liturgies of the Sacred Triduum offer the chance to join ourselves more closely to Christ.