The service of Tenebrae (the name means ‘darkness’ or ‘shadows’) is a Holy Week devotion which traces its roots back to the seventh century. It is characterized by the gradual darkening of the Sanctuary as candles are extinguished throughout the service. Every word spoken in the service is found in the Scriptures. The service is intended to impress upon us the significance of Jesus’ death and the events which led to it. At the end of each ‘shadow’, a candle is extinguished followed by a time of silent reflection. The candle representing Christ is not extinguished, but is carried out of the Sanctuary to represent a period of complete silence symbolizing the tomb. Thirty bells will ring to represent the thirty pieces of silver paid to Judas for betraying Jesus. Following the bells the strepitus is heard, a noise signifying the tomb and the earthquake. At the end of the period of silence, the pastor will return the Christ candle to its place in anticipation of the resurrection. The Lord’s Prayer is then whispered in unison. After the Lord’s Prayer, the choir will recess in silence while the congregation waits and then departs in silence.
The story is told through song and scripture: Matthew 26:14-16; Matthew 26:36-40; Matthew 26:47-54; Matthew 27:11-14 & 24-26; Isaiah 53:4-7; and Matthew 27:45-54.