Regina Caeli laetare, Alleluia! Quia quem meruisti portare, Alleluia!
Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia! Ora pro nobis Deum, Alleluia!
The joyful tunes of the Regina Caeli now resound as we celebrate the Pasch. But here are some photographs and notes of the Sacred Triduum in the Dominican Rite. May God bless all of you who are so generous with your sacrifices and prayers for the Sisters. We certainly pray for all of you too and wish you all a most blessed and holy Paschaltide.
Tenebræ consists of Matins, with its nine psalms, and Lauds, with its four psalms, Old Testament canticle, and Gospel Canticle (the Benedictus). This makes a total of 15 psalms and canticles. Instead of anticipating Matins the evening or night before as is customary in our Congregation, Tenebræ is chanted in choir early in the morning on the three days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.
Many different explanations of the symbolism of the Tenebræ hearse abound. It holds fifteen candles of unbleached wax which are gradually extinguished alternately on either side of the candlestick, beginning with the lowest. As the Benedictus at the end of Lauds is chanted, each of the six candles on the altar are also snuffed. All other lights in the church are put out, and the candle on the summit of the hearse the last to be extinguished.
The triangular form of the candelabrum is said to represent the Blessed Trinity, the candles, the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Law. The extinction of the lights, according to Amalarius of Metz (9th Century), signifies the sorrow in the hearts of the disciples while Christ lay in the sepulchre; according to others, the Jews in putting Christ to death deprived themselves of the light of faith.
P. Mortier, O.P., in La Liturgie Dominicaine (Vol III), comments that “This custom [of chanting Matins these days at nightfall] symbolizes the darkness that fell on Calvary and the whole earth while the Saviour was dying on His cross. The “Light of the world” was gradually going out with every drop of blood that fell from his veins. This striking symbol is made even stronger by the ceremony of the triangular candelabra. (…) At each psalm one candle is extinguished, then all the candles of the altar, then all the lights of the church. It is the slow death of the Saviour on the Cross.” So the candles being extinguished one by one, are like the drops of blood that fell from the Cross, sanctifying the world, redeeming sinful man.
In the Dominican rite, there is no “ritual” specific for the 15th or “Jesus” candle of the hearse, it is neither left burning or hidden. It is simply snuffed, sans ceremony, after the candles on the altar are extinguished during the Benedictus canticle, and all the lights in the church have been turned off. The loud noises made by pounding on the choir stalls with books or other objects is not done either.
Instead, there are invocations and responses in place of the Preces on these days – 4 chantresses come to the middle of the choir, and they alternate the Kyrie eleison, and other invocations and responses between themselves and the choir, with variations in the responses according to the day in question. As the choir responds, “Christus Dominus factus est obediens usque ad mortem,” the two chantresses before the altar step sing, “Qui passurus advenisti propter nos; Qui, expansis in cruce manibus, traxisti omnia ad te saecula” (Holy Thursday).
On Good Friday: “Agno miti basia cui lupus dedit venenosa; Vita in ligno moritur, infernus et mors lugens spoliatur.“
On Holy Saturday: “Qui, expansis in cruce manibus, traxisti omnia ad te saecula; Qui prophetice prompsisti: Ero mors tua, O mors.“
Tenebræ concludes at the final response: “Christus Dominus factus est obediens usque ad mortem,” when the two chantresses before the altar step – as if at the foot of the Cross – cry out in a higher tone: “mortem autum crucis.” All prostrate for the space of a Pater, and the concluding prayer is said in a low tone: “Look down, we beseech Thee, O Lord, on this Thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ did not refuse to be delivered into the hands of the wicked, and to endure the torment of the Cross.“
After the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, ad Missam Vespertinam in Cena Domini, the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession to the altar of repose. There the Sisters remain in silent prayer before Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist until midnight, recalling His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the flight of the apostles, and the meekness of “the true lamb (Who) eliminates the symbolic lamb, that the multiplicity of various victims be brought to perfection by one sacrifice,” as St Leo explains. Christ offers His body and blood sacramentally on the altar of the table of the Last Supper, just as His Passion is about to begin, in which He will offer them physically on the Cross.
May we rejoice with the Queen of Heaven – for Christ is risen indeed!