(This service commemorates the crucifixion)
From noon until three in the afternoon, darkness came over the whole land. At about three in the afternoon, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”that is, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ –Matthew 27: 45-46
The Service of Tenebrae, or “service of shadows,” is a Holy Week devotion that dates back to the seventh or eighth century A.D. It powerfully dramatizes Jesus’ passion and death.
The service is composed of Bible readings and musical offerings, interspersed with a successive extinguishing of candles symbolizing the gathering darkness as we approach Jesus’ crucifixion. As each candle is extinguished, we are reminded of the hopelessness of a world without Christ.
The final climax comes after the twelfth reading in which Christ gave up His spirit. A loud gong is rung dramatizing the earthquake that occurred at the moment of His death. A black veil is raised over the central cross. The altar is stripped and the Christ candle is carried out, symbolizing Christ being taken into the tomb. The Sanctuary is in complete darkness. The Bible is forcefully closed as the service ends and the Word regarding His sacrifice is fulfilled. We leave the sanctuary in silence, remembering that for the apostles, the days between the cross and Easter were days of desolation – Christ really was gone from their world.
Each reading and event in the service brings us closer to the barrenness and darkness of a world without Christ. Through experiencing the darkness of this hour, the light of Easter morning shines that much brighter, reminding us that Christ, the Light of the World, rescues us from all darkness.
Please note: Due to the solemnity of the occasion, we will not be streaming this service. There will, however, be a special pre-recorded service of Tenebrae available at 7pm on demand here.