Tenebrae

Wednesday March 27th 2024 at

Bronxville

The name Tenebrae (the Latin word for “darkness” or “shadows”) has for centuries been applied to the ancient monastic night and early morning services (Matins and Lauds) of the last three days of Holy Week, which in medieval times came to be celebrated on the preceding evenings. By drawing upon material from each of the former offices of Tenebrae, the ancient service provided an extended meditation upon, and a prelude to, the events in our Lord’s life between the Last Supper and the Resurrection. Throughout history, the service of Tenebrae has been adapted and modified from its original form. In tonight’s service, as we meditate on Christ’s journey to the cross in poem, anthem, song and story, one by one the candles and other lights in the church will be extinguished until only a single candle, considered a symbol of our Lord, remains. Toward the end of the service this candle is hidden, typifying the apparent victory of the forces of evil. At the very end, a loud noise is made, symbolizing the earthquake at the time of the Resurrection (Matthew 28:2), the hidden candle is restored to its place, and by its light all depart in silence. These details – the candles, the removal and subsequent return of the single candle, the Responsories, the loud noise, Christus factus est, and Psalm 51 – all find their origins in the ancient service of Tenebrae.