There's a texture to Holy Wednesday: a subtle shift in the wind.
It's the only day outside of the Triduum (Thursday to Saturday) that has garnered a name: Spy Wednesday. It's the day when Judas (the "spy") would have conspired to betray Jesus.
I don't know if this really influences our perception of Holy Wednesday, but here's what I think does: this day is the last gasp before the inexorable descent toward the watery baptismal depths and resurrection that comes in the Great Vigil of Easter.
And so, Wednesday has it's own special "Evensong", but it is somewhat massive, seeing how it must encompass the eve of a three-day observance.
Tenebrae is fully loaded, and fully automatic. And it's placement in modern Episcopal usage on Wednesday in Holy Week seems just about perfect.
There are antiphons (stunningly beautiful antiphons), psalms, canticles, Christus Factus Est, and a final penitential psalm taken in while kneeling. The lights diminish one by one, until all is pitch black. We pray for hope. We hold our breaths.
And then a rapid, roaring plunge.
The noise at the end of Tenebrae (or strepitus, if you prefer it's Latin name) bears with it almost everything that will transpire in the Triduum. It is the betrayal in the garden. It is the crucifixion. It is Jesus' loud cry on the cross. It is the earthquake. It is the curtain ripping in two. It could even be the noise of the stone itself being rolled away.
I suppose it must be everything just shy of resurrection itself, which is only alluded to by the return of that wayward candle, the one that wandered away from the fold toward the end of the Benedictus. (Or perhaps this candle simply fled in terror as it saw its lesser siblings succumb without a fight.)
Because without that light there is full darkness. There is only a tattered tapestry and shaky ground. There is only a hoarse, bloody Jewish man, crying out from a cross. There is only a tale of religious/political intrigue that comes to a head for thirty grimy coins.
There is only an empty tomb, and its meaning is not yet grasped.
We know what's coming. There's a mini-Easter at the end of Tenebrae, but not really. The light comes back, but just barely. It doesn't light anything else, and we're still basically sitting in the dark.
And that's where we are in this pre-Triduum Triduum (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday). We're left with the light of one candle.
To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, * and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Some light. But not enough. We can't do much on our own. Luckily, the spy is going to get Jesus involved in the story, and things will get very interesting very quickly.
Labels: Holy Week, Judas, Spy Wednesday, Tenebrae
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