By Dr. Carly York | Correspondent
Daylight was quickly turning to dusk as faithful from around the Diocese entered a dimly lit and reverently quiet St. Catharine Church, Spring Lake, the evening of April 17.
Gathered for the celebration of a Tenebrae, the congregants were led in a meditation service on the Passion and Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Tenebrae, which traces its roots to the fourth century, is Latin for darkness and involves the reading of sacred Scriptures, chanting of music and the gradual darkening of the church from dim to complete darkness.
PHOTO GALLERY: Tenebrae in Spring Lake
First-time Tenebrae participant Louise Burke, a member of St. Catharine Parish, said it was moving as the Psalms were sung “to think about what actually happened to Jesus before [and during] the Crucifixion.”
The focus of the Tenebrae, which was presided over by Msgr. Harold Cullen, pastor of St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish, was the candle hearse, where 15 candles served as the primary illumination for the entire church. After each Psalm was sung, a light was extinguished so that greater darkness enveloped the church. The Psalms were sung primarily in Latin chant by the Central Jersey Catholic Chorale under the direction of Peter Carter. The hearse was built by Phil Clingerman of St. John the Baptist Parish, Allentown, a candidate in the diocesan diaconate formation program.
When only the flickering light of the Christ Candle – at the center of the hearse – remained, the Canticle of Zechariah was sung. The Christ Candle was then also removed and hidden under the altar, casting a still darkness over the church.
A loud banging sounded from the choir loft, symbolizing Jesus’ Death and the earthquake that shook during his Crucifixion. After the singing of Psalm 51, “Have Mercy on Me, O God,” the Christ Candle was returned to the hearse, symbolic of the coming Resurrection of Jesus.
Nora Brower of St. Catherine Laboure Parish, Middletown, who attended the Tenebrae with her husband, John, said the couple was familiar with the tradition. “We want to experience the true, the good, and the beautiful,” Nora Brower said. “It is amazing what human beings are capable of doing when they reach up to God.”
Therese and Andrew Filacheck of St. Joseph Parish, Toms River, said they have attended the Tenebrae service in the past and are drawn by the reverence of the traditional musical accompaniment.
“We want to teach our children about the traditions of the Church and its beauty,” Therese Filacheck explained as she gestured to her two young children standing next to her.