Thursday, March 24, 2016

Holy Week has always been a deep favorite of mine in the liturgical year...and yet somehow I'd never attended Tenebrae (the Wednesday candlelight service) until last night.

We gathered in the church, clustering closely, the Divine Office in our hands, and gazing at the the ascending fifteen candles nestled in a wooden, triangular stand. The solemn rise and fall of Latin prayers, Matins and Lauds, filled the air as we listened to the grief and lamentation of the Psalms + Jeremiah. 

"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return to the Lord your God." 

With each reading, a yellowed candle and the overhead lights were extinguished until only the center candle, white to represent the Christ, was the only light. It flickered calmly and quietly. 

We gazed at the Light that stood alone, the entire church shrouded in darkness and shadows. 

Then a clamor arose - knocking and drumming, wild noise of clangers and our hands beating against the wooden pews - symbolizing the chaos and tumult that arose in Nature itself when the Light of the world went out. 

And then...silence. 

Pure, deep, and profound silence such as I have never heard before. 
Tenebrae. Shadows. 

The mourning of our Lord. 

His Calvary begins. 

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return to the Lord your God. 


  1. So...Holy Week is my favorite church season, and I've been Catholic my whole life, but I had absolutely no idea Tenebrae was a thing. Thank you for alerting me to this! Definitely going to one next year. Beautiful writing for a beautiful event.

  2. I share your feelings about Holy Week and I attended Tenebrae for the first time this year, too. Though I had been misinformed about what it actually is, I was able to switch gears and enter into the beauty of it nonetheless. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  3. Wow! That sounds beautiful!

  4. The one year I stayed at TAC for Easter and it was the first and so far the last time I went to Tenebrae. You caught the whole mood and feel of it. Such deep beauty.

  5. This post gave me goose bumps. I love Holy Week!