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Ceremonies of Holy Week

Ceremonies for Holy Week

The last three days of Holy Week are the most somber of the liturgical year. The name Tenebrae, which is Latin for darkness, has been given to the Matins and Lauds ceremonies of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday as a reflection of the mournful atmosphere that pervades the Church. These ceremonies, which once started at night, now usually start during the late afternoon and end after the sun has set. On Maundy Thursday fifteen candles are set up near the altar, with each candle, and the candles of the altar, being extinguished one by one as the ceremony progresses. The Psalms, the chants, and the readings all reflect the somber tone of a Church in mourning, for these are the days to commemorate how our Saviour suffered and died.

The purpose of these pages is to assist readers in following the ceremonies of Holy Week when issues of distance or health might otherwise prohibit being able to attend in person. Links to the accompanying music have been provided where possible. Each page contains the beginning words for the prayers of the ceremony, so it is suggested that our readers follow along with a pre-1962 missal.

The following guides for the last three days of Lent is taken from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger

Notes and Key:

Versicle symbol stands for Versicle, the short prayer said by the priest, deacon, or sub-deacon during the ceremonies.

Response symbol stands for Responsorie, which is when the choir or the attending parishioners will be making their response during the ceremonies.

Ant. stands for Antiphon, the prayer recited before and after specific prayers.

Click on the links below to view the pages for the last three days of Holy Week. Once you have finished a page click the back button on your computer to return to this page or click the link that takes you to the next ceremony.

Maundy Thursday

Good Friday

Holy Saturday

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The Improperia, as well as the responses to the Lessons, known as the Tenebrae Responsories, were composed by Fr. Tomás Luis Victoria (1548 - 1611). Fr. Victoria is considered one of the greatest composers of the counter-reformation period. Many of his religious pieces continue to be used in the Catholic Church to this day.

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