Holy Week in the monastery is truly special. The silence deepens, the desert experience of Lent intensifies. The last days before Easter, the Holy Triduum, are spent as days of retreat as much as possible – all but the most essential work stops as the sisters are given more time to complete their tasks for the Triduum and Easter preparations, reviewing and practicing the liturgies, and prayer.
Despite the somber lamentations and petition the refrains throughout our prayer this week, there are little glimmers of the joy to be ours on Easter Sunday. Delicious smells wafting throughout the house from the kitchen. The sounds of the schola and chantresses practicing the liturgies. And, of course, spring cleaning. The chill of winter begins to give way to the warmth of spring, inviting us to open the windows and doors. The days grow longer and let in more light. But all this fresh air and
The novitiate took advantage of the absence of the Blessed Sacrament from the niche to tackle a large project before Holy Thursday – a thorough cleaning of the choir, including windows.
All these physical preparations, this “Spring Cleaning”, are reminders of the more important need we have for spiritual cleaning. The reality of our sin and the suffering Jesus went through by His Passion and death for love of us is made especially vivid in our liturgical prayer during these days, particularly during Tenebrae.
Tenebrae is traditionally prayed in complete darkness, with the only light coming from a hearse holding burning candles. As the hour of prayer proceeds, at various times, the candles are extinguished, representing the disciples abandoning our Lord. Chantresses intone passages from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, which describe the sins of Jerusalem (representative of the Jewish people, and also of the Church) and entreat her to return to the Lord, her God.
Eventually only the center, or Christ candle, remains burning, until near the end of Tenebrae when its flame is also removed after the chanting of the Benedictus. Then, in Dominican tradition, two chantresses stand at the front of the choir, two more chantresses stand in the middle of the choir and all face the altar as the chantresses and choir pray for Christ’s mercy.
Each day of the Triduum has slightly different entreaties; those recorded in this clip are from Holy Thursday.
May God’s grace pour out on us all during these holy days of Triduum as we prepare for His Resurrection and the triumph we share with Him over the captivity and death of sin.