I’m sitting in a small room, evening slowly descends in one of my favorite cities, where today only a handful of people celebrate our Easter. But even if they celebrated it, I could not hear any more the Holy Week Wednesday evening liturgy, the Tenebrae, which since the Vatican Council has disappeared from the tradition, so much that even the majority of Catholics have never heard of it.

I’m obsessively looking for the cities, whose population was replaced, whose several centuries of history are only remembered by a ruined synagogue, a Transylvanian Saxon fortified church, an empty Polish cathedral. The remembrance of Tenebrae is the darkness silently descending on Wednesday evening. Since the Gregorian times, at this time they lit on the fifteen candles of the triangular candlestick in the dark church, at this time they sang the carefully selected fifteen verses from the Psalms and Gospels, which illustrated with consecutive disasters, well known to everyone from his or her own life, the darkness of the human soul, and heralded the darkness unfolded by the liturgy of the following three days. After each verse they spent out a candle, and after the fifteenth the whole church fell in darkness.

• darkness fell when I was crucified
• the sign by which my friend betrayed me was a kiss
• you told you’re eager to die for me, and you could not watch one hour with me
• one of my disciples will betray me today, although he dipped his hands with me in the dish

It’s fifty years since the Tenebrae itself was also spent out, I myself have never heard it live. It’s memory is kept, besides the darkness descending on Wednesday evening, also by those Renaissance compositions, among which the most well-known is the Tenebrae by Tomás Luis de Victoria, a contemporary of Saint Teresa of Ávila. But once I am talking about hiddenness, I prefer to show you the less-known version by Charpentier, which I love the most in the presentation by Gerard Lesne. Since, however, that CD is now many hundreds of miles away from me, I include it in the performance by Le Parlement de Musique, already in total darkness, only at the light of the laptop screen.

Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704): Tenebrae factae sunt, sung by Le Parlement de Musique

Tenebrae factae sunt, dum crucifixissent
Jesum: et circa horam nonam exclamavit
Jesus voce magna:
Deus meus
ut quid
me dereliquisti
darkness fell when they crucified
Jesus: and about the ninth hour cried
Jesus with a loud voice:
My God
hast thou forsaken me

1 comentario:

Catherine dijo...

Je me souviens, il y a quelques années, des Leçons de Ténèbres de Couperin au château de Versailles, dans la chapelle royale, pendant la semaine sainte. J'avais espéré que, là, les bougies s'éteindraient les unes après les autres comme autrefois, mais ce n'était qu'un concert et pas une célébration — ou plutôt la seule célébration de la musique. Pas de bougies donc, mais le soir qui descend derrière les vitraux blancs et or, le soleil qui se couche, et soudain une grande flambée pourpre qui embrase la chapelle avant que la nuit s'abatte.