Probably from the 12th century until the Holy Week reforms of 1955, the Office of Tenebrae was the celebration of Matins and Lauds for the last days of Holy Week. The Latin term Tenebrae means shadows or darkness, and suggests symbolically the setting of the Sun of Justice, and the spiritual darkness of the Jewish people. The term came into use most probably because the lights were gradually extinguished in the course of the Office and all departed in darkness and silence.

Matins and Lauds of these days were originally the ordinary offices sung by monastic communities serving the Roman basilicas throughout Europe. In their form they reveal certain primitive features of the Roman cathedral office. There were no hymns, no invitatory, and the Doxology at the end of each psalm was suppressed. The lamentations were sung to a chant of peculiar poignancy.

During the celebration of Tenebrae we process into chapel in silence with the apex candle leading. The candles of the Tenebrae candelabra are lit in order to denote the almost complete abandonment of Christ by the apostles. Nevertheless, the unrecognized light of Christ is not destroyed, as the 15th candle gives evidence. In the midst of the deepening darkness, the light of this candle still shines.

The sung Lamentations and Prayer of Jeremiah, the Prophet, call the people of God to repent of their transgressions. Jeremiah mourns the destruction of Jerusalem, and pleads with the people to return to God. His grief is recorded in the Lamentations, which form part of our Tenebrae service. The different sung sections are introduced by the Hebrew alphabet: Aleph, Beth, Ghimel, etc.

The sung Lessons of the Book of Hebrews, remind us of the incarnation and exaltation of Christ. The author of Hebrews presents to all people the everlasting priesthood of Christ, a priesthood that fulfills the promise of the Old Testament.

Tenebrae is a prolonged meditation on the events of salvation running from the Last Supper to the entombment. Themes of betrayal, the judgment, crucifixion, death, burial and the expectation of resurrection resound throughout.

Join us for Tenebrae Good Friday & Holy Saturday at 9 a.m.
If you are unable to attend I will be posting the Lessons and Lamentations.
Blessings during this holy time!