Tenebrae

The service of Tenebrae, or "Shadows”, grew out of a combination of the night and early morning prayers, which were usually read by several deacons.  The focus is on "The Passion of our Lord" and in the Middle Ages the services were lead by Monastic Choirs.

Tenebrae is a traditional Service for Holy Week, its purpose is to impress upon the hearts of believers the awful consequences of sin and the magnitude of the Saviour’s sacrifice.

The most significant feature of this service is the gradual extinguishing of the candles. The ensuing darkness symbolises the growing resentment and hatred of the world against the Saviour. Note, however, that the Holy Spirit, as symbolized by the Eternal Light, remains undiminished.

Each part of the service or "Nocturne" begins with a reading, first the psalms, then the Passion History and then concludes with a singing of a Hymn in response.  An atmosphere of quiet and sombre reflection permeates the readings and prayers.

The candle in the centre of the table represents the Saviour Himself.  This is removed from the table to symbolise the death of Jesus. This candle is removed from sight, (“In a little while and you will not see me”).  After the Lord's Prayer has been said, a time of silence is observed in total darkness.

The silence is broken with an act which symbolizes the cutting off of “The means of Grace” and represents the closing of the tomb.

Upon completion of the service, those around the table will leave in silence, after which the congregation will leave in silence and in darkness, maintaining the spirit of the worship befitting this solemn evening.