Wednesday, April 5
7 p.m. in the Church LIVESTREAM
Tenebrae is a Latin word signifying “darkness,” “shadows,” and obscurity. It is a word that pointedly calls our attention to the scriptural accounts of our Lord’s crucifixion: the name of this service is taken from one of the Responsories Tenebrae factae sunt (“darkness came over the whole land”, Mark 15:33). This service gathers into a single evening the themes originally assigned to the last three nights of Holy Week.
Tenebrae has an internal rhythm and structure that reflects the daily prayers and routine of its monastic roots: within Matins (a service for the night, traditionally greeting the day before the sun rises) are three nocturns, each containing three lessons and three responsories: an expression of God the Trinity. Lauds, a service of praise in the morning, begins with a psalm of confidence, and is followed by its Gospel Canticle, the Song of Zechariah—an expression of hope and praise. From this Canticle onwards, we reflect on the suffering and painful reality of the Cross, without the comfort of a final “Amen” or dismissal.
Tenebrae is punctuated by its more conspicuous feature: the gradual extinguishing of light until a single
candle representing Christ remains.
The candle is then hidden to represent the apparent victory of the forces
of evil, but is not extinguished. At the end of the service, a loud noise is made to represent the sound of the
earthquake following the crucifixion, and the single candle is restored to its place. Worshippers depart by its
light in silence, recalling His suffering on the cross for our sins.
- Drawn from The Church Pension Fund (© 1996). Reproduced for non-commercial use