The Order for Tenebrae

Tenebrae is the Latin term for shadows. It is a service of lessons accompanied by the gradual extinguishing of lights. This service can be conducted either at the end of Mass on Maundy Thursday or as a separate service on Maundy Thursday.

The service requires twelve individual readers along with the Celebrant. Twelve candles are needed, representing the Twelve Disciples. These candles may be placed either on the altar or along the altar rail. For dramatic affect (and especially if there is to be an Easter Pageant), each of the readers can be dressed as one of the Disciples.

Should the Tenebrae be used as a separate service, the entire service listed below should be used. If used in conjunction with the Mass, then only the readings and the extinguishing of lights should be used.

Processional (Stand)
(The Processional Hymn should be one of somber reflection. Suggested hymns include “Where Charity and Love Prevail" [Ubi Caritas], “Drop, Drop, Slow Tears”, and “My Song is Love Unknown”. Another suggestion is to have a Piper lead the Processional piping a slow march or retreat)

P: The Lord be with you.

C: And with your spirit

(Kneel or Sit)

P: Let us pray: O Jesus! tonight, Thou Shepherd of the poor, Thou sinless person Who did suffer full sore by ban of the wicked, and wast crucified, save us from evil. Save us from harm. Save our bodies. Sanctify us tonight. O Jesus! tonight do not leave us. Endow us with strength, Thou Herdsman of might. Guide us aright. Guide us in Thy strength, O Jesus! In Thy strength Preserve us.

C: Amen.

P: Our Lord said: “The light is with you for a little longer, so that the darkness may not overtake you.”

C: Let us therefore walk in the light, that we may be called the children of light.

Hymn (Stand)
(“O Worship the King” or other suitable praise song.)

P: The Lord be with you.

C: And also with you.

(Kneel or Sit)

P: Let us pray: Eternal Light, shine in our hearts. Eternal Goodness, deliver us from evil. Eternal Power, be our support. Eternal Wisdom, scatter the darkness of our ignorance. Eternal Pity, have mercy upon us; That with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, we may seek Thy face and be brought by Thine infinite mercy to Thy holy presence.

C: Amen.

Lighting of the Candles (Stand)

(The readers come from the congregation carrying their candle and light them from the Gospel side candle on the altar. They then place them in the candlesticks and move to the lectionary side of the altar. While this is being done, the following hymn is said or sung)

Phos Hilarion

A: O gracious Light, pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven, O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed! Now as we come to the setting of the sun, and our eyes behold the vesper light, we sing Your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You are worthy at all times to be praised by happy voices, O Son of God, O Giver of life, and to be glorified through all the worlds.

The General Confession (Sit or Kneel)

P: Let us bend the knee of our hearts and confess our sins before our Lord.

A: O blessed King of kings, we stand before Your throne with broken hearts and spirits, with blemished souls and shattered honor. We have sinned, O Merciful One, we have sinned against You. By thoughts, by words, by deeds we’ve done; by thoughts, by words, by deeds undone, we’ve failed to hold Your Commandments dearer than our desires. We have rebelled, our Lord, and deserve Your swift justice. Yet before Your throne do we confess our faults. We repent, O Lord, have mercy upon us and forgive us. Allow us once again to enter Your service and to amend those things we have done wrong, to repent of our sins through Your atoning death and with the help of Your Grace; for Your honor and for the glory of Your Holy Name. Amen.

P: As a called and ordained minister in Christ’s Church and on His authority, I declare unto you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, through His atoning death and glorious resurrection; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son(+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Readings and Extinguishing of Lights (Sit)

(When used in conjunction with the Mass, this part of the Order is to be used. As a dramatic portrayal of the desertion of Christ by the Twelve, the twelve readers read one of the selections, extinguish a candle, and depart the altar area through the Sacristy. If no Sacristy is available, they leave down the aisle and into the Narthex)

1st Reading: Shadow of Betrayal (Matthew 26:20-25)

2nd Reading: The Betrayer Revealed (John 13:26b-30)

3rd Reading: Shadow of Desertion (Matthew 26:31-35)

4th Reading: Shadow of Pride (Luke 22:24-27)

5th Reading: Agony of the Soul (Luke 22:39-44)

6th Reading: Unshared Vigil (Mark 14:32-41)

7th Reading: “Father, the hour is come” (John 17:1-6)

8th Reading: “That they may be one” (John 17:15-22)

9th Reading: Arrest in the Garden (John 18:1-5)

10th Reading: Shadow of the Kiss (Luke 22:47-48)

11th Reading: Shadow of the Cross (Mark 15:16-20)

12th Reading: The Word was God (John 1:1-5)

(After the last reader has left and the church is darkened, the Priest stands before the congregation and reads the last reading)

13th Reading: The Ultimate Victory (Rev. 5:6-14)

The Closing (Stand)

P: The day ends, darkness descends. Now, Lord, let troubles cease. Let Your servants depart in peace. Labours are over, our task here is done. Now, Lord, Your victory be won. Lord, when everything trembles give me a firm foundation; Faith founded on facts. Prayers founded on Your Presence. Life founded on Your Love. Peace founded on Your Power.

C: Amen.

(All depart the church in silence)