Today is Maundy Thursday, but I want to take this opportunity to talk about tomorrow – Good Friday. Easter has no joy without the sorrow of Good Friday. Good Friday has no hope without Easter. One cannot be without the other.
I am always amazed to meet Christians who hail from churches and denominations who have no regular Good Friday tradition. Easter just does not mean the same thing without passing through the darkness of Good Friday’s traditional tenebrae service.
Tenebrae is the service of darkness. My church’s tenebrae service has always made a huge impact upon me. The service begins like any other, but the reading are generally taken from the OT prophesies of Christ’s sacrifice and Christ’s last words from the Cross. One by one the readings take place and slowly but surely lights are extinguished in the Sanctuary.
By the conclusion of the service, the sanctuary, altar, and congregation have fallen into darkness. Only the light of the Christ candle remains casting long shadows around the chancel.
Yet even the Christ candle is then shut up in a room, symbolic of the sealed tomb.
The congregation is bathed in complete darkness.
Next, the strepitus (“harsh noise”) strikes sealing the tomb. It followed by the rumbling that represents the resurrection.
The congregation exits in silence.
Nothing could be more different from Easter. Nothing could set the stage better for the surprise victory to come.
How blessed we are to be given this powerful liturgy from our forefathers.