Skip to comments.Tenebræ [Holy Week Service]
Posted on 03/26/2007 6:08:07 PM PDT by Salvation
The Latin word Tenebræ means "darkness." Tenebræ is very ancient service of prayers in the Church which takes place during the darkness of night. Many parishes are now reviving this extraordinarily moving service which consists of three sets of Psalms and verses from the Lamentations of Jeremiah chanted on each of three nights of Holy Week: Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. (Originally this was a service of Matins said in monasteries before dawn on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday; but it customarily takes place the evenings before.)
The service begins with the nave of the church in darkness, except for a candelabrum on a stand in the sanctuary, usually containing fifteen candles arranged in an inverted `v', called a `Tenebræ hearse.' As each lamentation, introduced with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, is chanted one of the candles is extinguished until only one, representing the Light of Christ remains. Then this is extinguished, leaving the church in darkness. The ministers and cantor leave the sanctuary, and a loud noise like a thunderclap (representing the earthquake during the Crucifixion) is heard; after which a single candle representing the Light of Christ is brought in, placed on the altar and the people leave in silence.
This is a very impressive service, and we hope you are able to attend with your children at least once during the Triduum. If your parish does not have Tenebræ it is worth trying to find a place that does.
If you have young children you might consider using the adaptation of this service in this book, Stations of the Cross. It is by no means as powerful as real Tenebræ, celebrated in church, but it does retain the symbolism of Christ as our Light, and it may be a workable substitute if your children are little or if the real service is not available where you live. (See Stations of the Cross.)
For your consideration and discussion
Are these the Lamentations you were talking about?
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Can Protestants attend? We tend to gloss over the literature of the Old Testament, admittedly. Sounds like a wonderful service.
This does sound interesting. I will enquire if my local parishes have such a service.
of course Protestants can attend. As the article says, more congregations are picking this up. It sounds so inspiring.
I especially liked the one candle being brought back into the sanctuary, representing the coming of Jesus Christ, the true Light!
You guys have about a thousand-and-a-half years on us in spiritual tradition and ceremony. That rocks.
Thank you. As a Catholic for 50 years, I've never heard of this service. It sounds impressive.
I don't know...they've been doing them on Fridays all through lent, but I haven't made them yet...sigh
Episcopal/Anglican churches also have this service on the Wednesday of Holy Week. It's very moving and very beautiful.
In Orthodoxy we chant the Lamentations on Great Friday evening as part of the Matins for Great Saturday by anticipation.
Light in ?????
Excellent post. Thank you, Salvation.
Does your church celebrate this darkness to one light evening?
darkness. Light in Darkness.
Our Tenebrae service is on Good Friday evening. We will be attending this year.
A friend has invited me to attend a Tenebrae service on the evening of Palm Sunday at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Waterford.
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