Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Holy Week Benedictine Office Part II: Maundy Thursday


So, continuing my notes on the Office of Holy Week, on to Maundy Thursday.

It's really when you reach the Sacred Triduum that you need to do a bit of planning ahead, because what Holy Week ceremonies you attend affects the Office.

Now I'm going to be talking about the Extraordinary Form here, because the traditional Benedictine Office connects closely to it - and in fact as far as I can see, over the Triduum, the Benedictine and Roman Offices are pretty much identical. So those trying to fit things with the OF will have to look at their own missals and see what works!

Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday - saying Matins and Lauds the night before

The first point to note is that traditionally, Matins and Lauds are effectively combined without a break, and, outside a monastery, often sung the night before (though the best thing of course is to get up very early so you can do it all in the pre-dawn darkness!). So if you can get to a Tenebrae service on Wednesday night do (just remember to say Vespers and Compline for Holy Wednesday before you go)!

It is a particularly beautiful service, but even if there isn't one on in your area, you can make do by yourself - you'll find it in a Liber Usualis, or online at breviary.net (and other places). You could even find yourself fifteen candles (those little table circle things will at least be a token, in the privacy of your home!), which you extinguish one by one as each psalm is said. And of course, if you happen to have a nice recording of the Tenebrae responsories and/or the Lamentations (the readings), you could play them while you say the appropriate texts...It is however a long service - in choir, count on at least three hours.

So if you just want to stick with Lauds, the Monastic Diurnal gives the text, at 265* (note that it starts straightoff from the antiphon with no preliminaries). You will also find that the hour has been trimmed down a bit, so there is no chapter, responsory or hymn.

One of the particularly beautiful features of the Office is the closing antiphon - Christus factus est. Each day of the Triduum, an extra phrase is added to it. And for those who sing the propers at mass, the tone is the same as the Gradual with the same text.

No Gloria Patri

Another big change in the Office for the Triduum is that the Gloria Patri is dropped from the end of each psalm - be careful, it is so automatic it is easy to forget this one!

Minor hours

These too are greatly slimmed down, giving a very solemn character, with no hymn or even antiphons. The psalm tones are not used. For these few days, most of the Office is a chant free zone (mind you if you've sung all of the antiphons, psalms and responsories of Tenebrae, and are going on to sing at the various Holy Week ceremonies, you will appreciate the break)!

To vespers or not?

And there is another freebie here too - if you go to the evening Mass, you don't say vespers! Just in case you can't get to Mass (or feel compelled to say it anyway in line with slightly older practice, in which case you will need to squeeze it before you go to mass), however, the Monastic Diurnal does give the text for them on page 296*. My 1928 monastic holy week book actually has vespers being said before the stripping of the altar (just after the Pange Lingua is sung in the 1962 EF mass), so I suspect that its removal was one of the 195os changes (but maybe its a 62ism?).

Compline (which begins at the confiteor, and includes the Nunc Dimittis) is, like the other hours, properly sung on one note immediately after the stripping of the altar in the Church.

Tenebrae for Good Friday

And because of the late night on Thursday, few communities do Tenebrae on Thursday night, so plan on doing it privately as part of your adoration, or in the early morning!

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