SJV’s First Tenebrae Service

On Monday, March 26, St. John Vianney offered its first Tenebrae, an ancient monastic service traditionally celebrated during Holy Week. The response from parishioners and visitors alike was resoundingly positive. The attendance was standing room only, with approximately four hundred in our chapel seating three-hundred-fifty! A pre-service lecture on the history of the liturgy was given by Dr. Jeffery Cooper, Organist-Choirmaster of St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church, League City, who holds a Master of Sacred Music Degree from the University of Notre Dame.

The liturgy was served by three seminarians from St. Mary’s Seminary here in Houston, including our very own Ricardo “Rick” Arriola, who will be ordained to the diaconate by Cardinal DiNardo this summer. The enormous amount of chanted psalmody and other responses directed by Kirk Rich, Associate Director of Music and Organist, were sung by the Vesper Choir , an ensemble of volunteers, professional cantors, and treble choristers who normally sing for the Sunday 5:30 pm Mass. The choir offered the North American premiere performance Allegri’s famous Miserere mei, in a unpublished reconstruction by French musicologist Jean Lionnet (1935-1998).

The Tenebrae service featured a new liturgical furnishing constructed especially for our parish. This “hearse” is triangular candelabra supporting fifteen candles, which are gradually extinguished throughout the service to the point of total darkness (Tenebrae is Latin for “darkness”). Our new hearse was built and donated by members of our parish-sponsored Boy Scout troop, Craig Hagedorn and his son, Kyle. Based on the overwhelmingly enthusiastic responses, we hope the Tenebrae service will become an annual tradition during Holy Week at St. John Vianney.