Holy Week

We arrive at Tuesday of Holy Week. It seemed odd to celebrate the Annunciation yesterday as the Use of Sarum allows. I have already posted on this subject, and wondered whether I should defer the Annunciation to after the Octave of Easter. With the commemoration of the Feria, this feast took took on an extremely sober character in the midst of the Lenten Array and the absence of the Gloria, which in the Use of Sarum is possible only when the feast is transferred to after Easter.

Life has to be lived during these days, and life must go on. When I am on my own, which is usually the case, I recite the Office in my stall without ceremonies or hearse for Tenebrae. Maundy Thursday is a Passiontide Mass, and the “feast of priests” theme is absent. The two hosts left over from this Mass are reserved in the hanging pyx and the third host goes into the Easter Sepulchre after the Mass of the Presanctified of Good Friday. Unlike in the Roman rite (English / Anglican Missal), the church is not “secularised” or deprived of the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. What takes the most preparation is Holy Saturday. For once my sailing club doesn’t have its AGM on Holy Saturday, which leaves me free to do everything without any pressure or rush. I have a small private yard outside the chapel door, and this is where I have the New Fire in a small cast iron cauldron on a stand, using small pieces of wood from my workshop and lit with a gas blowlamp, jokingly called Blowlampus liturgicus.

I may feel a little dry this week in terms of creative writing, or I might be the opposite. Holy Week affects me differently from year to year. I have always noticed how tensions arise between persons, especially when I was in seminary. It is an odd time when the more pious of us try to follow the events like the catechumens of old, reliving the Transitus Domini, the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, the Resurrection of Christ, thoughts of our own death and the worrying events in the world. I used to wonder whether the Redemption had made much difference in this world, and I still wonder. However, there is more than this world, this universe, and the difference Christ’s Mystery made will be really known to us when we are no longer of this world. For the time being, with the bitter words of Christ (Let this cup pass from me, but not as I will…), I leave you with this poem (I wish I could read it in German) of Novalis:

Into the bosom of the earth,
Out of the Light’s dominion,
Death’s pains are but a bursting forth,
Sign of glad departure.
Swift in the narrow little boat,
Swift to the heavenly shore we float.

Blessed be the everlasting Night,
And blessed the endless slumber.
We are heated by the day too bright,
And withered up with care.
We’re weary of a life abroad,
And we now want our Father’s home.

What in this world should we all
Do with love and with faith?
That which is old is set aside,
And the new may perish also.
Alone he stands and sore downcast
Who loves with pious warmth the Past.

The Past where the light of the senses
In lofty flames did rise;
Where the Father’s face and hand
All men did recognize;
And, with high sense, in simplicity
Many still fit the original pattern.

The Past wherein, still rich in bloom,
Man’s strain did burgeon glorious,
And children, for the world to come,
Sought pain and death victorious,
And, through both life and pleasure spake,
Yet many a heart for love did break.

The Past, where to the flow of youth
God still showed himself,
And truly to an early death
Did commit his sweet life.
Fear and torture patiently he bore
So that he would be loved forever.

With anxious yearning now we see
That Past in darkness drenched,
With this world’s water never we
Shall find our hot thirst quenched.
To our old home we have to go
That blessed time again to know.

What yet doth hinder our return
To loved ones long reposed?
Their grave limits our lives.
We are all sad and afraid.
We can search for nothing more —
The heart is full, the world is void.

Infinite and mysterious,
Thrills through us a sweet trembling —
As if from far there echoed thus
A sigh, our grief resembling.
Our loved ones yearn as well as we,
And sent to us this longing breeze.

Down to the sweet bride, and away
To the beloved Jesus.
Have courage, evening shades grow gray
To those who love and grieve.
A dream will dash our chains apart,
And lay us in the Father’s lap.

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4 Responses to Holy Week

  1. All the same, for those who read German, I give the text in its original language:

    N° 6 Sehnsucht nach dem Tode

    Hinunter in der Erde Schooß,
    Weg aus des Lichtes Reichen,
    Der Schmerzen Wuth und wilder Stoß
    Ist froher Abfahrt Zeichen.
    Wir kommen in dem engen Kahn
    Geschwind am Himmelsufer an.

    Gelobt sey uns die ewge Nacht,
    Gelobt der ewge Schlummer.
    Wohl hat der Tag uns warm gemacht,
    Und welk der lange Kummer.
    Die Lust der Fremde ging uns aus,
    Zum Vater wollen wir nach Haus.

    Was sollen wir auf dieser Welt
    Mit unsrer Lieb’ und Treue.
    Das Alte wird hintangestellt,
    Was soll uns dann das Neue.
    O! einsam steht und tiefbetrübt,
    Wer heiß und fromm die Vorzeit liebt.

    Die Vorzeit wo die Sinne licht
    In hohen Flammen brannten,
    Des Vaters Hand und Angesicht
    Die Menschen noch erkannten.
    Und hohen Sinns, einfältiglich
    Noch mancher seinem Urbild glich.

    Die Vorzeit, wo noch blüthenreich
    Uralte Stämme prangten,
    Und Kinder für das Himmelreich
    nach Quaal und Tod verlangten.
    Und wenn auch Lust und Leben sprach,
    Doch manches Herz für Liebe brach.

    Die Vorzeit, wo in Jugendglut
    Gott selbst sich kundgegeben
    Und frühem Tod in Liebesmuth
    Geweiht sein süßes Leben.
    Und Angst und Schmerz nicht von sich trieb,
    Damit er uns nur theuer blieb.

    Mit banger Sehnsucht sehn wir sie
    In dunkle Nacht gehüllet,
    In dieser Zeitlichkeit wird nie
    Der heiße Durst gestillet.
    Wir müssen nach der Heymath gehn,
    Um diese heilge Zeit zu sehn.

    Was hält noch unsre Rückkehr auf,
    Die Liebsten ruhn schon lange.
    Ihr Grab schließt unsern Lebenslauf,
    Nun wird uns weh und bange.
    Zu suchen haben wir nichts mehr –
    Das Herz ist satt – die Welt ist leer.

    Unendlich und geheimnißvoll
    Durchströmt uns süßer Schauer –
    Mir däucht, aus tiefen Fernen scholl
    Ein Echo unsrer Trauer.
    Die Lieben sehnen sich wohl auch
    Und sandten uns der Sehnsucht Hauch.

    Hinunter zu der süßen Braut,
    Zu Jesus, dem Geliebten –
    Getrost, die Abenddämmrung graut
    Den Liebenden, Betrübten.
    Ein Traum bricht unsre Banden los
    Und senkt uns in des Vaters Schooß.

  2. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    I’ll have to get a real German speaker to look at this with me, but it’s good to go back and forth between the metrical translation and the German text to get both meaning and see something of the artistry of the original – such as first and last stanzas beginning with ‘Hinunter’ while the first has ‘in der Erde Schooß’ and the last has (in the last rather than first stanza-line) ‘in des Vaters Schooß.’

    It is also good to read this having read the translation of ‘Die Christenheit oder Europa’ and the scholarly article to which you linked earlier, inviting me (as it seems to me) to compare the two works (strikingly, about the – Christian – Past).

    With all good wishes for Holy Saturday!

  3. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    I just enjoyed looking up Leo Kelly’s article “Tenebrae Hearse” (1910) and Herbert Thurston’s “Tenebrae” article (1912) in the old Catholic Encyclopedia (while listening to Alfred Deller and Wilfred Brown sing Couperin’s “Troisième leçon”. Kelly interestingly explains how both senses of ‘hearse’ derive from “from the Latin herpex, which means a harrow” on account of “the resemblance of these prickets [“to hold burning tapers”] to the spikes or teeth of a harrow”! Kelly includes among reading recommendations Thurston’s Lent and Holy Week: Chapters on Catholic Observance and Ritual, of which two scans of the second impression(1914) are available in the Internet Archive (sadly, there are no index references to Sarum in it).

    • In today’s parlance, a hearse is a vehicle (specially adapted estate car or a van) used to transport a dead person in his coffin for his funeral. In the old days it would have been horse-drawn and would have had prickets for candles, hence the name. That’s what I suppose.

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