One of the most haunting works of the 17th century is Allegri's Miserere. This sublime setting of Psalm 51 was written for use by the Sistine Chapel during Holy Week during the Tenebrae service. This striking "Service of Shadows" in which one by one candles are extinguished amidst ever darker readings as prelude to the intensifying pain of Good Friday's Passion.. The aching poignancy of this polyphonic masterpiece imprinted itself upon Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart when he heard it in Italy as a fourteen year old. Smitten by its tragic grandeur, he went home and wrote the entire piece out from memory after one hearing, The text is a call to new life, to forgiveness and mercy. It is a plea to enter into a life of deepening truth and inner wisdom.
Tomorrow, churches across the world will honor Tenebrae, the Service of Shadows. Whatever your own set of beliefs or disbeliefs, I encourage you to light a handful of candles and click on the link to listen to this extraordinary work and meditate upon the beauty, fragility and impermanence of life- and find your own call to ever deepening truth and wisdom.