The service of Tenebrae, meaning “darkness” or “shadows,” has been practiced by the church since medieval times. Once a service for the monastic community, Tenebrae later became an important part of the worship of the common folk during Holy Week. We join Christians of many generations throughout the world in using the liturgy of Tenebrae.
Tenebrae is a prolonged meditation on Christ’s suffering. Readings trace the story of Christ’s passion, music portrays his pathos, and the power of silence and darkness suggests the drama of this momentous event. As lights are extinguished, we ponder the depth of Christ’s suffering and death; we remember the cataclysmic nature of his sacrifice as we hear the overwhelming sound of the “strepitus”; and through the return of the small but persistent flame of the Christ candle at the conclusion of the service, we anticipate the joy of ultimate victory.