Tenebrae factae sunt—and it was dark (Mt. 27:45).
At Tenebrae, we join the Church as she mourns for our betrayed Redeemer. Readings trace the story of Christ’s passion, music portrays his pathos, and the power of silence and darkness suggests the drama of this momentous day.
The candles represent Christ and His apostles who abandoned Him one by one.
The last candle is taken from its place and is hidden. All becomes dark while the choir sings the heart-wrenching 'Miserere.'
The overwhelming sound of the strepitus (earthquake) reflects cataclysmic nature of His sacrifice. But the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).
Tenebrae 2023 Schedule
Spy Wednesday, April 5th - 7:30 pm CDT - Sung Tenebrae - Link to live stream.
Holy Thursday, April 6th - 8:00 am CDT - Simplified Tenebrae
Good Friday, April 7th - 8:00 am CDT - Simplified Tenebrae
Holy Saturday, April 8th - 8:00am CDT - Simplified Tenebrae
Download the booklet to follow along at home.
Learn more about Tenebrae
Tenebrae means “darkness”, and consists of the chanting of Matins and Lauds of the Divine Office on the final three days of Lent leading up to Easter Sunday: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Matins and Lauds consist of Psalms, Antiphons, and readings that highlight the sacred mysteries of Holy Week. The mood of the celebration focuses on the death of Jesus and is consequently very somber.
On each day of Tenebrae, a special candelabra, called a Tenebrae hearse, is displayed, holding 15 candles. During the liturgy, the candles are extinguished one at a time after the chanting of the Psalms. The final candle, representing Christ, is not extinguished but hidden behind the altar after the last of the Scripture readings. A final prayer is said in the darkness and the liturgy ends in silence. The last candle is then brought back into view. The faithful leave in silence and the mood is again very mournful, reflecting on the death of Christ and the darkness that covered the world on Good Friday.
It is a beautiful part of Holy Week that immerses the Christian faithful into the death of Christ and makes the lighting of candles at the Easter Vigil even more dramatic. During Tenebrae the church is shrouded in darkness. The Easter Vigil begins in that same darkness, but the light of Christ, symbolized by the Paschal candle, expels the shadows and the entire church becomes ablaze with light when the candle reaches the sanctuary. This is the good news of our faith. However dark our world may get, the light of Christ conquers the darkness and leads us all to Eternal Life.