Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I'm making a pilgrimage tonight, with some friends, to the Tenebrae service at a big-city church.

I had never heard of this service, or attended one, until a few years ago. But how appropriate it seems to be for Holy Wednesday, as the creeping darkness of Holy Week begins to descend on us.

You can read all about Tenebrae here. The church is candle-lit, and the candles are extinguished one by one as readings proceed.  At the end, the final shining candle is obscured from view, often placed beneath the altar.

The comes the strepitus -- a loud noise symbolizing the earthquake Scripture tells us followed the Crucifixion. If done properly, the strepitus makes you feel as if all hell is breaking loose -- as it is, I guess.

But that's not the last word. After the hellish noise, the single burning candle is placed upon the altar, the light of Christ for all the people to see, as they depart in silence.

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