Tenebrae captures the spirit of Christ's passion

Christians, the Rev. Doug Dortch fears, often move too quickly from Palm Sunday to the Resurrection. Calvary barely gets a pause.

That’s why he likes the Tenebrae service ”” what he calls the “best-kept secret about Christian worship” ”” during Holy Week. Tenebrae, the Latin word for shadows, attempts to recreate the emotional atmosphere of Christ’s passion by extinguishing candles or lights, one by one, throughout the service, which ends in complete darkness and silence.

“The service enables Christians to identify with the betrayal and abandonment and agony of the crucifixion,” said Dortch, pastor of First Baptist Church. “It’s highly experiential.”

He said it answers the age-old question ”” raised by many of the “new atheists” today ”” “how bad things can happen to good people.”

“The only answer that can be given, I think, on this side of the grave, is that God is present with us in the pain and the suffering, just as he was with Jesus,” he said.

Read it all.


Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Liturgy, Music, Worship

4 comments on “Tenebrae captures the spirit of Christ's passion

  1. physician without health says:

    I attended a Tenebrae service Good Friday last year at a Lutheran church in my neighborhood. It was powerful, for the very reasons discussed in this article. I highly commend the experience to all.

  2. TACit says:

    What the preaching of the Three Hours on Good Friday afternoon does for the mind the Tenebrae service, properly done, can do with the emotions. It is probably the most important ‘grounding’ worship time in the Triduum until the lighting of the new fire, when tiny resurrection lights spreading among Easter Vigil worshippers repeal the finality of the extinguishing Tenebrae lights.

  3. Br. Michael says:

    You should not go to the joy of Easter without the going through the darkness of Good Friday and the utter dispar of Holy Saturday (the liturgical day begins and ends at sundown as in the Jewish practice). To me this is the most Holy time of the year and I reflect on Holy Saturday what if their were no God and all we had was us.

  4. PadreWayne says:

    I totally agree with #1,2, and 3. In my sermon this morning I stressed how entering into the valleys, the deep dark places of Holy Week (and self) can more us toward a celebration of the Resurrection that is even more profound. We also ended the service today with the organ turning off for the last verse of “O Sacred Head Sore Wounded,” and then nothing but silence. No dismissal, no voluntary, just…simple…silence. Wow.

    We’ll do Tenebrae for the first time this Wednesday. I’m encouraged by the article referenced.

    A blessed Holy Week to all. May we all experience the darkness, in full confidence of the Light.