Tenebrae

ImageJerusalem remembers,
in the days of her affliction and wandering,
all the precious things
that were hers in days of old.
When her people fell into the hand of the foe,
and there was no one to help her,
the foe looked on mocking
over her downfall.

—Lamentations 1:7 (Zayin)

One of the service names on Our Holy Week schedule that might seem (particularly) unfamiliar is Tenebrae, taking place on Wednesday evening at 6:30pm. Named for the Latin word for shadows, this service offers us the opportunity to reflect upon the shadows that fell upon Jesus’ followers in the time leading up to his death, a time when evil seemed victorious over good. We participate in the growing anger, fear and dismay of the disciples using the words of the Psalms and the book of Lamentations. As the service progresses, we gradually extinguish a stand of fifteen candles, until only one remains—the light of Christ. Then that light, too, is hidden from us, even as it was hidden from the disciples as Christ lay in the tomb. As we wait in silence, we hear the sound of an earthquake, and the light returns to us.

Why would we want to do this? Why choose to put ourselves through this re-enactment of anxiety when we know that Christ has already risen from the dead? We do this because we do not always bask in awareness of the light of the risen Christ. We all too often live our lives under the shadows of anger, fear and dismay, forgetting that God has already triumphed over sin and death. When, therefore, we choose to walk through these shadows with the disciples, we remind ourselves that evil only seems to triumph over the other parts of our lives. We always have access to the light of Christ, even when that light is hidden from us or from those to whom we bear witness.

Then, the next time we find ourselves overwhelmed with life’s shadows (and there is always a next time), or the next time we encounter someone else who is overwhelmed, we carry with us the memory of this experience. Having exercised our faith in our worship, we are prepared to do the work to which God calls us, even when that work is simply a matter of remembering that the light we cannot now see is only hidden, not extinguished. And when we hear the sound of the earthquake, we know that it is the sound of deliverance, not destruction.

History

The service of Tenebrae emerged in the Middle Ages from the monastic service of Matins and Lauds for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. This monastic influence is still apparent in the use of Gregorian Chant for praying the psalms and in the division of the service into nocturns, or night watches. Other musical settings of the Tenebrae service became available as the appeal of Tenebrae spread beyond the monastic community over time, so that one may now find polyphonic, baroque and even jazz versions of the Tenebrae service.

It has become common practice in the Episcopal Church to hold the service of Tenebrae on Wednesday of Holy Week rather than on Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Two historical factors have led to this practice, which we are following at Holy Trinity. One has to do with time and the other with function.

The precise timing of Matins and Lauds, originally sung at night and at daybreak respectively, varied considerably from place to place and even from day to day as the nights grew shorter. Matins for particularly important days in the life of the church could be quite long and elaborate, requiring the service to begin earlier and earlier in order to end by daybreak. Thus the services of Tenebrae, as Matins for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, would begin sometime in the evening on Wednesday of Holy Week.

In a monastic community, Matins and Lauds are a part of the regular worship on each and every day, so Tenebrae functions as a particular focus for the prayer already being done on each day. Outside of the monastery, however, different worship patterns prevail. Other obligations inhibit lay attendance at multiple services, and the services of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday already have their own emphases. Thus in the Episcopal Church we keep only the first of the Tenebrae observances, on Wednesday evening, to allow its own function to receive emphasis without conflicting with that of the other services.

Stations of the Cross

Third Station—Jesus Falls

Entrance to a Polish Catholic Chapel at the 3rd Station in Jerusalem. Photo by Remi Jouan.

From the earliest years of Christianity, the faithful have made their way to the holy places in Jerusalem where Jesus suffered his passion and death. Although we have no set list of places those first pilgrims visited, over time there emerged a pattern, not only of places, but of special devotions practiced in those places. This pattern came to be known as the Via dolorosa (Way of sorrows) or Via crucis (Way of the cross).  As Christianity spread, the number of pilgrims making their way to Jerusalem grew.

Almost since the first recorded pilgrimages to Jerusalem, we find also the recording of the longing experienced by those who were unable to make the trip.  Those left at home while their neighbors traveled to the holy land, as well as those who could make the trip only once in a lifetime, sought a way to make a pilgrimage of the spirit along the way of the cross. Some achieved this by visiting a series of chapels, others wayside shrines, others by arranging artwork around the walls of a church or a cloister. For each, however, the aim was to make a series of “stations,” (stopping points) in order to pray and to meditate on some part of the passion narrative.

While the number and type of stations varied, by the seventeenth century a relatively standard list of stations had emerged:

  1. Jesus is condemned to death;
  2. Jesus takes up his cross;
  3. Jesus falls the first time;
  4. Jesus meets His afflicted Mother;
  5. The cross is laid on Simon of Cyrene;
  6. A woman wipes the face of Jesus;
  7. Jesus falls a second time;
  8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem;
  9. Jesus falls a third time;
  10. Jesus is stripped of His garments;
  11. Jesus is nailed to the cross;
  12. Jesus dies on the cross;
  13. The body of Jesus is placed in the arms of his mother;
  14. Jesus is laid in the tomb.

Devotions might be made at these stations privately or in groups, praying silently or aloud, with or without music. While the Episcopal Church has devised a set of devotions for the Book of Occasional Services, any number of different devotions are appropriate.

At 6:30pm on Tuesday evenings during Lent*, we invite you to join us at the Church of the Holy Trinity for Stations of the Cross. We will gather at the front of the front of the church.

*Except for March 25th, when we will join our sister parishes at the Cathedral of St. James for the Feast of the Annunciation.

How do We Hear God Calling to Us?

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people; Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, )

Lent is a time when we focus on our obedience (or lack thereof) to the will of God. The word obey comes from the Latin word ob-audire, literally, to act upon what one hears. This is what the Epistle of James is getting at when he bids us to “be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves” (James 1:22). Before we can act upon what we hear, however, we must first hear what God is saying.Ear trumpet

We humans are ingenious at finding ways to avoid hearing God’s call. Lucky for us, God is persistent! If one way of getting through to us doesn’t work, He tries another, and another, and another.  Sometimes he uses words, sometimes he uses . . . other means.

Join us this Lent for a bible study that explores a few of the ways in which we do or do not hear God’s voice when He calls to us. Our goal will be to improve our hearing, so that we may be prepared to follow where the Shepherd is leading us.

Soup and Scripture at Seven

(Tuesday Evenings in Lent, after Confessions and Stations of the Cross)

March 11—Playing in the Dirt (Matthew 13: 1-23)

March 18—Anywhere but that! (Jonah 1:1-16)

March 25—No Study (Celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation at the Cathedral)

April 1—Fools speak folly (Isaiah 32:1-8)

April 8—Mirror, mirror (James 1:17-35)

April 15—Listening for His Voice in the Garden (Matthew 26:36-46)

Lenten Services at the Church of the Holy Trinity

cross of ashesMarch 5—Ash Wednesday—Eucharist with Imposition of Ashes

  • 12pm—Rev. Canon John Schramm Preacher and Celebrant
  • 6:30pm—Rev. Dr. Terri Bays Preacher and Celebrant

March 11 & 18, April 1, 8 & 15—Tuesday Evenings in Lent —Stations, Soup and Scripture

  • 5:30-6:15pm Confessions
  • 6:30pm Stations of the Cross
  • 7:00pm Soup Supper & Bible Study

March 25—Feast of the Annunciation—Joint Service with the Episcopal Parishes of St. Joseph County, hosted by the Cathedral of St. James

  • 6:30pm Festal Eucharist
  • 117. N. Lafayette Blvd. South Bend, IN 46610

Holy Week

April 16—Wednesday in Holy Week—Tenebrae Service, 6:30pm

April 17—Maundy Thursday

  • Foot Washing, Eucharist and Stripping of the Altar, 6:30pm
  • Vigil at the Altar of Repose, 9pm – noon
  • April 18—Good Friday—Solemn Liturgies
    • 12pm—Passion Gospel, Sermon and Solemn Collects
    • 1pm—Adoration of the Cross and Solemn Reproaches
    • 2pm—Communion from the Reserved Sacrament

April 19—Holy Saturday—Great Vigil of Easter 9pm

April 20—Easter Sunday—Festal Easter Eucharist 10am