What is Tenebrae Service?

My parish is having a Tenebrae Service on the Wednesday in Holy Week. The bulletin just says it is a service to prepare for the Triduum. What is done in a Tenebrae Service?

It’s a celebration of the Divine Office readings from Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, on the Wednesday before the Triduum. It used to signify the extinguishing of the lights in the Church.

So, are the readings from all 3 days read during the service? Which readings are read (the morning, afternoon, evening)? What happens to the lights in the Church? When do they get turned off?

I would have to go and look it up in a liturgical history book. It has been suppressed since Vatican II reforms. It has something to do with 15 candles and reciting 15 psalms and extinguishing one candle after each psalm.

Has the suppression been lifted since my parish is having it again? I have asked several older people about it including my parents, but nobody remembers it.

It’s Matins and Lauds of Holy Thursday prayed in the evening of Wednesday. From the Office of Holy Week 1944. 15 candles arranged on a triangle stand called a herce. The candles are extinguished as the psalms are read, it seems one an hour. The word Tenebrae means “darkness” in Latin. It said that one candle remaind lit (I guess before matches?) and was hidden behind the altar.

So the extinguishing of the lights in the Church is done by extinguishing the candles? And there are 15 readings in the service?

Our parish has had a Tenebrae Service for the last few years.

I think it was held on Good Friday before the Good Friday service, but I could be mistaken. Our choir participated and I think it was our music director who was responsible. There were readings (couldn’t tell you exactly what), hymns, and candles that were extinguished.

I don’t think we had all 15 readings.

I attended last year, but as you can see, my memory is somewhat foggy.

The Tenebrae service is usually done in Early morning, formerly also at night or Midnight.

It consists of Readings from Scriptures (usually 7, 8, or 15, and even in some churches in ancient times, as many as 12, 24 or 72!). Especially included in the Readings is the Book of Lamentations.

There are as many candles as there are readings plus one ‘Christ Candle’. After each reading, the reader then puts out one of the candles until the service comes to an end.
At the end of the service (After the last reading), the last candle is extinguished and the ‘Christ Candle’ is then either hidden or put out and the whole church is bathed in darkness.

At the end of the Tenebrae either the congregation leaves in silence without speaking or they will beat the pews to make a ‘great noise’ (symbolic of the earthquake after Jesus’ death). The noise-making continues until the Christ Candle is now taken back to the Altar.

Sounds fantastic - if I get a chance (which I most likely will) I’ll get to Tenebrae this year - assuming a church within a 5-mile radius is holding it of course :wink:

It’s a Tenebrae Hearse actually. The word came from the French herse, ultimately from the Latin herpex (harrow).

The Hearse here is the same word that we commonly associate today with any receptacle holding the coffin. Originally in Ancient times, Hearses were wooden or metal framework that stood over a coffin and supported the pall. It had numerous prickets used to hold candles that resembles the teeth of the harrow, so thus it was called hearse.

The Tenebrae Hearse also had spikes that look like a harrow’s teeth to hold the candles on so the word was also used for it.

The one candle is representative of Our Lord. It being hidden is perhaps a symbol that His glory is eclipsed by the Sufferings He endured during the Passion. He that is the Light of the World is stripped of His honors.

All his disciples abandoned Him, like how the other candles were extinguished, leaving the Christ candle alone.
It is placed on the Altar, signifying His Death.
It is hidden behind the Altar to symbolize the temporary disappearance of the Light of the World, the ‘taking away’ of the Bridegroom.
During this the whole congregation making noise thing happens and the whole Church is in darkness to commemorate the three-hour darkness and the earthquake.

Then it was taken back to the Altar to symbolize His triumph over death by dying (in anticipation of Easter) and the whole congregation keeps silence and pays homage to the Conqueror of sin and death.

Thank you for your explanation. It sounds like a beautiful service. I will definitely have to go. My parish is having it in the evening, rather than in the morning.

At our Tenebrae service our priest had us whisper the Our Father each time it was said. Any reason behind this?

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend due to an appointment. I guess I’ll have to wait until next year.:frowning:

My former parish has done a Tenebrae service for years. Something our former Pastor started. Patrick explained it quite well, too.

Ours was done in the evening on Good Friday. We had seven readings, focusing on the seven last words of Christ. A couple responsorial psalms. After each reading a candle was extinguished. At the end Father would remove the last candle, everyone pounded on the pews. The candle would return and all left in silence.

Not a long service, but a great way to spend the evening on Good Friday.