Shadows Gather—Submitted by Cheryl TenWolde
Thy beauty, long desired, hath vanished from our sight; Thy power is all expired, and
quenched the light of light. Ah, me! For whom thou diest, hide not so far Thy grace;
Show me, O Love most highest, the brightness of Thy face.
Hymn 169, verse 2 , O Sacred Head Sore Wounded
At the heart of the month of April this year is Holy Week, when we journey with Christ in Jerusalem. As we start out with Passion Sunday and move through Holy Week to Easter Morning, this short season is charged with meaning.
The name Tenebrae, which is the Latin word for “darkness” or “shadows”, has been used for centuries in monasteries for the night and early morning services of the last three days of Holy Week. The Book of Occasional Services (p. 74) has gathered material from these three services into a single powerful and moving service which provides an extended meditation on the events of the last three days of our Lord’s life. It sets the tone and adjusts our hearts, minds, and even bodies, to walk with Christ in his Passion. The service is dense and rich, containing nine lessons, various antiphons, and psalms. Each verse of Lamentations is introduced with a Hebrew letter.
Another distinctive aspect of this service is the gradual extinguishing of fifteen candles, signifying the apparent victory of darkness over light on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Everyone will feel the real nature of what Holy Week means. The light seemed to go out and there was darkness over the whole earth at noon. It seemed then that darkness really might overwhelm the light in the world. A loud noise will symbolize the earthquake that Matthew witnesses in his Gospel at the time of the Resurrection. A single hidden candle reappears to represent Christ, and all depart in silence by its light.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:5