Good Friday Tenebrae

Good Friday Tenebrae:

A service of shadows.

What is Tenebrae?

  • Tenebrae is a form of Evening Prayer in which the candles are slowly extinguished, leaving the community in darkness.
  • It serves as our evening service on Good Friday.

What happened this day?

  • The Sabbath begins with sunset on Friday.  (This is why Jesus was hurriedly buried.)
  • No labor or travel is allowed on the Sabbath.
  • Jesus’ followers kept Sabbath until it ended with sunset on Saturday.  (This is the reason that the women came to the tomb at first light on Sunday.)

What does the church do at the Good Friday Tenebrae?

  • Different communities will keep this evening in different ways – and some not at all.
  • At Los Altos Lutheran we gather for a simple time of prayer, scripture and the Tenebrae.
  • The service opens in darkness with a solo voice chanting a portion of Lamentations, the poems written in the desolation following the destruction of Jerusalem in 587/586 bce.
  • The lights are raised as seven candles are lighted.
  • Portions of the readings from Good Friday afternoon are read.
  • The sermon at the Tenebrae is usually the same as from the Good Friday service in the afternoon.
  • The Tenebrae concludes the evening.  It involves the seven last words of Jesus, each preceded by a psalm and followed by the extinguishing of a candle, ultimately leaving the community in darkness.
  • The last candle, however, instead of being extinguished, is carried into a small room and then returns – suggesting Jesus entering the grave and returning.
  • The community goes home to return for the Easter Vigil.