Tenebrae (// or //—Latin for "darkness") is a religious service of Western Christianity held during the three days preceding Easter, and characterized by by gradual extinguishing of candles, and by a "strepitus" or "loud noise" taking place in total darkness near the end of the service. Tenebrae originated as a combined service of matins and lauds on the last three days of Holy Week (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) celebrated on the evening of the previous day. 
Outside of religious communities that still use matins and lauds, the service is usually adapted for congregational use. Adaptations include holding the service only once during the three days; holding Tenebrae as an evening service or even at other times of day; a varying number of candles; different commemorations including the Seven Last Words, dramatic readings of the Passion of Jesus, orchestral music written for Tenebrae especially the music of Bach.
Roman Catholic practiceEdit
In the Roman Catholic Church, "Tenebrae" is the name given to the celebration, with special ceremonies, of Matins and Lauds, the first two hours of the Divine Office, of the last three days of Holy Week. In the Roman rite of the Catholic Church Tenebrae was celebrated in all churches with a sufficient number of clergy until the liturgical reforms of Pope Pius XII in the 1950s. The traditions regarding this service go back at least to the ninth century.[dead link] Originally celebrated after midnight, by the late Middle Ages their celebration was anticipated on the afternoon or evening of the preceding day.
The celebration of Matins and Lauds of these days in the form referred to as Tenebrae in churches with a sufficient number of clergy was universal in the Roman Rite until the reform of the Holy Week ceremonies by Pope Pius XII in 1955. At that time, the Easter Vigil was restored as a night office, moving that Easter liturgy from Holy Saturday morning to the following night; the principal liturgies of Holy Thursday and Good Friday were likewise moved from morning to afternoon or evening, and thus Matins and Lauds were no longer allowed to be anticipated on the preceding evening, except for the Matins and Lauds of Holy Thursday in the case of cathedral churches in which the Chrism Mass was held on Holy Thursday morning.
The 1960 Code of Rubrics, which was incorporated in the next typical edition of the Roman Breviary, published on 5 April 1961, a year ahead of the publication of the 1962 edition of the Roman Missal, allowed no anticipation whatever of Lauds, though Matins alone could still be anticipated to the day before, later than the hour of Vespers.
- Up to 1955 the three consecutive Tenebrae services for Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, including the typical ceremonies such as the extinguishing of candles, and each of these three services anticipated on the previous day, were widely celebrated as an integral part of the liturgy of Holy Week in churches with a sufficient number of clergy wherever the Roman rite was followed. A rich tradition of music composed for these central occasions had developed.
- From 1956 to 1970 the practice largely declined:
- The 1955 papal document restored the celebration of Matins and Lauds of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday to their original timing as morning services, with only a little allowance for anticipating any of them on the evening before. On these three days attention shifted from what became morning services to the services that were now to be held in the afternoon or evening. Communal celebration of Matins and Lauds became limited generally to communities that observed the full Divine Office in congregational form. Matins and Lauds, having lost their exceptional character, provided composers with little incentive to produce new music for them and there was no demand for grand performances of the existing music earlier composed for Tenebrae.
- The Roman Breviary, as updated in 1961, did not mention any specific Tenebrae ceremonies to accompany the no longer anticipated Matins and Lauds of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.
- Finally, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, Matins and Lauds throughout the year were completely reformed. Matins, for instance, no longer had the nine psalms and Lauds the five psalms that determined the number of candles extinguished in the Tenebrae celebration.
Structure of the service before liturgical reforms in the wake of Vatican IIEdit
The structure of Tenebrae is the same for all three days. The first part of the service is Matins, which in its pre-1970 form is composed of three nocturns, each consisting of three psalms, a short versicle and response, a silent Pater Noster, and three readings ("lessons"), each followed by a responsory. Pre-1970 Lauds consists of five psalms, a short versicle and response, and the Benedictus Gospel canticle, followed by Christus factus est, a silent Pater Noster, a devotional recitation of Psalm 50 (51), Miserere (suppressed in the 1955 revisions of Pope Pius XII), and the appointed collect. The Gloria Patri is not said after each psalm.
The principal Tenebrae ceremony is the gradual extinguishing of candles upon a stand in the sanctuary called a hearse. Eventually, the Roman Rite settled on fifteen candles, one of which is extinguished after each of the nine psalms of Matins and the five of Lauds, gradually reducing the lighting throughout the service. The six altar candles are put out during the Benedictus, and then any remaining lights in the church. The last candle is hidden beneath the altar, ending the service in total darkness. The strepitus (Latin for "great noise"), made by slamming a book shut, banging a hymnal or breviary against the pew, or stomping on the floor, symbolizes the earthquake that followed Christ's death, although it may have originated as a simple signal to depart. After the candle has been shown to the people, it is extinguished, and then put "on the credence table," or simply taken to the sacristy. All rise and then leave in silence.
|Maundy Thursday||Good Friday||Holy Saturday||Practices typical for Tenebrae services|
|First Nocturn (lessons from the Lamentations of Jeremias)|
|Antiphon||Zelus Domus||Astiterunt reges terrae||In pace|
|Psalm||Psalm 68 (Psalm 68)||Psalm 2 (Psalm 2)||Psalm 4 (Psalm 4)||1st candle extinguished before repeat of Antiphon|
|Antiphon||Avertantur retrorsum||Diviserunt sibi||Habitabit in tabernaculo|
|Psalm||Psalm 69 (Psalm 69)||Psalm 21 (Psalm 21)||Psalm 14 (Psalm 14)||2nd candle extinguished before repeat of Antiphon|
|Antiphon||Deus meus eripe me||Insurrexerunt in me||Caro mea|
|Psalm||Psalm 70 (Psalm 70)||Psalm 26 (Psalm 26)||Psalm 15 (Psalm 15)||3rd candle extinguished before repeat of Antiphon|
|Versicle||Avertantur retrorsum||Diviserunt sibi||In pace in idipsum|
|Our Father (silent)|
|1st lesson||Lamentations 1:1–1:5||Lamentations 2:8–2:11||Lamentations 3:22–3:30|
|1st responsory||In monte Oliveti||Omnes amici mei||Sicut ovis|
|2nd lesson||Lamentations 1:6–1:9||Lamentations 2:12–2:15||Lamentations 4:1–4:6|
|2nd responsory||Tristis est anima mea||Velum templi||Jerusalem surge|
|3rd lesson||Lamentations 1:10–1:14||Lamentations 3:1–3:9||Lamentations 5:1–5:11|
|3rd responsory||Ecce vidimus||Vinea mea||Plange quasi virgo|
|Second Nocturn (lessons from Augustine's Commentaries on the Psalms)|
|Antiphon||Liberavit Dominus||Vim faciebant||Elevamini|
|Psalm||Psalm 71 (Psalm 71)||Psalm 37 (Psalm 37)||Psalm 23 (Psalm 23)||4th candle extinguished before repeat of Antiphon|
|Antiphon||Cogitaverunt impii||Confundantur||Credo videre|
|Psalm||Psalm 72 (Psalm 72)||Psalm 39 (Psalm 39)||Psalm 26 (Psalm 26)||5th candle extinguished before repeat of Antiphon|
|Antiphon||Exsurge, Domine||Alieni insurrexerunt||Domine, abstraxisti|
|Psalm||Psalm 73 (Psalm 73)||Psalm 53 (Psalm 53)||Psalm 29 (Psalm 29)||6th candle extinguished before repeat of Antiphon|
|Versicle||Deus meus, eripe me||Insurrexerunt in me||Tu autem|
|Our Father (silent)|
|4th lesson||from Comm. on Psalm 54||from Commentaries on Psalm 63|
|4th responsory||Amicus meus||Tamquam ad latronem||Recessit pastor noster|
|5th lesson||from Comm. on Psalm 54||from Commentaries on Psalm 63|
|5th responsory||Judas mercator pessimus||Tenebrae factae sunt||O vos omnes|
|6th lesson||from Comm. on Psalm 54||from Commentaries on Psalm 63|
|6th responsory||Unus ex discipulis||Animam meam dilectam||Ecce quomodo|
|Third Nocturn (lessons from Epistles)|
|Antiphon||Dixi iniquis||Ab insurgentibus||Deus adjuvat me|
|Psalm||Psalm 74 (Psalm 74)||Psalm 58 (Psalm 58)||Psalm 53 (Psalm 53)||7th candle extinguished before repeat of Antiphon|
|Antiphon||Terra tremuit||Longe fecisti||In pace factus|
|Psalm||Psalm 75 (Psalm 75)||Psalm 87 (Psalm 87)||Psalm 75 (Psalm 75)||8th candle extinguished before repeat of Antiphon|
|Antiphon||In die tribulationis||Captabunt||Factus sum|
|Psalm||Psalm 76 (Psalm 76)||Psalm 93 (Psalm 93)||Psalm 87 (Psalm 87)||9th candle extinguished before repeat of Antiphon|
|Versicle||Exsurge, Domine||Locuti sunt adversum me||In pace factus est|
|Our Father (silent)|
|7th lesson||1 Corinthians 11:17–11:22||Hebrews 4:11–4:15||Hebrews 9:11–9:14|
|7th responsory||Eram quasi agnus innocens||Tradiderunt me||Astiterunt reges terrae|
|8th lesson||1 Corinthians 11:23–11:26||Hebrews 4:16–5:3||Hebrews 9:15–9:18|
|8th responsory||Una hora||Jesum tradidit||Aestimatus sum|
|9th lesson||1 Corinthians 11:27–11:34||Hebrews 5:4–5:10||Hebrews 9:19–9:22|
|9th responsory||Seniores populi||Caligaverunt oculi mei||Sepulto Domino|
|Antiphon||Justificeris, Domine||Proprio Filio||O mors|
|Psalm||Psalm 50 (Psalm 50 - Miserere)[a]||10th candle extinguished before repeat of Antiphon|
|Antiphon||Dominus tamquam ovis||Anxiatus est||Plangent eum|
|Psalm||Psalm 89 (Psalm 89)||Psalm 142 (Psalm 142)||Psalm 42 (Psalm 42)||11th candle extinguished before repeat of Antiphon|
|Antiphon||Contritum est cor meum||Ait latro ad latronem||Attendite|
|Psalms||Psalms 62 and 66 (Psalm 62; Psalm 66)[b]||12th candle extinguished before repeat of Antiphon|
|Antiphon||Exhortatus es||Cum conturbata||A porta inferi|
|Canticle of Moses
|Canticle of Habacuc
|Canticle of Ezechias
|13th candle extinguished before repeat of Antiphon|
|Antiphon||Oblatus est||Memento mei||O vos omnes qui transitis|
|Last Psalms||Psalms 148, 149 and 150 (Psalm 148–150)||14th candle extinguished before repeat of Antiphon|
|Versicle||Homo pacis meae||Collocavit me||Caro mea|
|Antiphon||Traditor autem||Posuerunt super caput||Mulieres sedentes|
|Benedictus||Canticle of Zachary
|Altar candles extinguished during Benedictus;
Last burning candle hidden after repeat of Antiphon
|(part of) Christus factus est (based on Philippians 2:8–2:9)|
|Our Father (silent)|
|Psalm 50 (Psalm 50 - Miserere)[c]|
|Prayer||Respice quaesumus||Followed by "noise", last candle brought out again|
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The lessons of the first nocturn at Matins are taken from the Lamentations of Jeremias and are sung to a specific Gregorian reciting tone. The Lamentations of Jeremias have been set to music by many composers, including Palestrina, Tallis and Lassus. Such High-Renaissance polyphonic choral settings of Lamentations at Tenebrae, culminating in those of Lassus (1584), share the same texts with, but in musical idiom are to be distinguished from, the French Baroque genre of Leçons de ténèbres, as composed by Marc-Antoine Charpentier and François Couperin. In the 20th century Ernst Krenek wrote a Lamentatio Jeremiae prophetae, Op. 93.
The lessons of the second nocturn are taken from the writings of St. Augustine, and the lessons of the third nocturn from the Epistles. These are chanted to the ordinary lesson tone and have been relatively neglected by composers, though there are a few settings by Manuel Cardoso. The Tenebrae responsories have been set by, among others, Lassus, Gesualdo, Victoria, Marc-Antoine Charpentier and Jan Dismas Zelenka. Gregorio Allegri's setting of the Miserere psalm, to be sung at the Tenebrae Lauds, is one of the best known compositions for the service. Also Gesualdo includes a setting of that psalm in his Responsoria et alia ad Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae spectantia, along with a setting of the Benedictus.
After the Second Vatican CouncilEdit
The 1970 revision of the Roman Breviary, now called the Liturgy of the Hours, recommends public celebration of the Office of Readings (Matins) and Morning Prayer (Lauds)—what was formerly called "Tenebrae"—for Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The newer form of the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer has a total of only six psalms (three in either hour), not the older form's fourteen, after each of which a candle was extinguished. The readings are no longer three, divided into nine shorter sections, but two longer readings, and there is provision for extending the Office of Readings on more solemn occasions. In the older form, liturgical practice on those days differed from that on other days even during Lent: for instance, Gloria Patri was omitted at the end of psalms and responsories. The Office of Tenebrae was abandoned at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 1977, but had continued, although the rule against anticipation of Matins and Lauds to the previous evening was already in effect, at that location until then, because the timetable of Roman Catholic Holy Week services had to remain unchanged due to the established rights of other churches.
Summorum Pontificum (2007) permits clerics bound to recitation of the Divine Office to use the 1961 Roman Breviary, a permission availed of by several religious and secular institutes and societies of apostolic life. The 1955 and 1960 changes incorporated in that edition of the Breviary continued to exclude anticipation of Matins and Lauds to the previous evening, whether celebrated with or without the Tenebrae ceremonies. Tenebrae-like services however also continue in other forms:
- The Jesuit Institute provides a service, denominated Tenebrae, without psalms and not necessarily in darkness, in which a candle is extinguished after the reading of each of seven Scripture passages related to the Passion of Jesus.
- A modified form of the old-style Tenebrae that leaves the church in darkness is used by the Canons Regular of Saint John Cantius in Chicago.
- Several Catholic cathedrals and other churches arrange one-off services with Gregorian chant and polyphonic music from the traditional Tenebrae service, sometimes as an evening concert.
Other Western Christian ChurchesEdit
Some Protestant denominations retained elements of the Roman Tenebrae liturgy, or added others. The name "tenebrae" can be given to various Holy Week services held by Protestant churches including the Lutheran, Anglican, United Methodist, United Church of Christ and Presbyterian Churches. Some liturgical Baptist congregations also hold Tenebrae Services. Variations of Tenebrae are sometimes celebrated in less formal or non-denominational churches as well.
Some Tenebrae responsory settings led their own life in Protestant practice, for instance:
- Jacob Handl's Ecce quomodo moritur justus
- The Tristis est anima mea setting attributed to Johann Kuhnau
Some Anglican churches celebrate the Tenebrae service. Anglicans, thereby preserving the importance of the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday observances.
The Episcopal Church in its Book of Occasional Services provides for a single Tenebrae service on Holy Wednesday in the evening. That service preserves the number of nine Tenebrae lessons, each followed by a responsory.
The majority of parishes within the Anglican Church of Canada do not routinely celebrate Tenebrae, and the Anglican Book Centre does not publish any service explicitly for Tenebrae. Parishes that do celebrate Tenebrae follow a variety of practices. The Church of St. Mary Magdalene (Toronto) is notable for the excellence of its music, of which the musical Tenebrae services are exemplary. At the Church of the Epiphany (Oakville) Tenebrae is described as the reversal of the Advent wreath: "starting Lent with the brightness of six candles, the darkness grows as a candle is extinguished each week in anticipation of Jesus dying on the cross on Good Friday." This abbreviated Tenebrae liturgy begins worship services on Sundays during Lent.  The Sisterhood of Saint John the Divine have their own liturgy, "The Order of Tenebrae", published in 1933. 
In Lutheran churches that observe the celebration, the Tenebrae service is typically held on Good Friday. There is a gradual dimming of the lights and extinguishing of the candles as the service progresses. Toward the end of the service, the Christ candle, if present, is removed from the sanctuary. A concluding Strepitus, or loud noise, typically made by slamming shut the Bible, is made, symbolizing the earthquake that took place, and the agony of creation, at the death of Christ.
In the Methodist tradition, fourteen candles, along with a central Christ candle, are lit on the Tenebrae hearse after the Opening Prayer. They are consequently extinguished after each of the Tenebrae lessons. Prior to the reading of the sixteenth lesson, the Christ candle on the Tenebrae hearse is extinguished and then the church bells are tolled. The sixteenth lesson is read in darkness, followed by the conclusion of the liturgy.
Polish National Catholic practiceEdit
The Polish National Catholic service usually takes place on Good Friday, mostly at night. A standing cross is put on the altar with a black veil over it and 12 to 14 candles are placed behind it. The service has a combination of Bitter Lamentations, Matins, and Vespers. Several of the PNCC clergy, vested with cantors, are seated at the high place and the service is chanted. Gradually a minor cleric puts out each candle except for the top one that is taken around the sanctuary into the vestry. At that time a moment of silence is held for Christ's death. Then the candle is placed back; the lights in the church are turned back on; and the final hymns are sung.
Congregationalist versions of Tenebrae service, particularly on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, often contain readings from the gospels which describe the time between the Last Supper and the Passion of Christ.
Some Western Rite Orthodox parishes observe the service of Tenebrae. Among some of the Byzantine Rite Orthodox there is an external similarity in that at Matins of Great Friday a candlestick with 12 candles is set up in the center of the temple behind the analogion from which the Twelve Passion Gospels are read. After each reading one of the candles is extinguished.
- New Oxford American Dictionary (Second ed.).
- Webster's New World College Dictionary (2014) defines Tenebrae as "a Holy Week night service (Wednesday through Friday), formerly widely observed in the Western Church, consisting of group recitation of Matins and Lauds of the following day in commemoration of Christ's death and burial". Collins English Dictionary (British usage) gives: "(formerly) the matins and lauds for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of Holy Week, usually sung in the evenings or at night.
- Boonstra, Harry (1986). "Tenebrae". Reformed Worship. Retrieved 27 March 2018.
Tenebrae services today, usually held on one day instead of three, follow many of the ancient customs. The pastor and members of the congregation read a number of Scripture passages— either the traditional fourteen or fewer. Often these passages are not psalms but rather portions of the Passion story. But no matter which Scripture and music are selected, the pattern of extinguishing the candles (and the overhead lights) and restoring the Christ candle remains the same. Some churches accentuate the darkness by tolling the bells.
- James Monti. The Week of Salvation: History and Traditions of Holy Week p. 79 ff. Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 1993 ISBN 0879735325 ISBN 9780879735326
- Herbert Thurston, "Tenebrae," Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 14 (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912).
- "Matins and Lauds are not anticipated in the evening, but are said in the morning, at the proper hour. In cathedral churches, however, since the Mass of the Chrism is celebrated in the morning of Thursday of the Lord's Supper, Matins and Lauds of the same Thursday can be anticipated in the evening." Decree Maxima redemptionis nostrae mysteria (16 Nov. 1955), No. 5, §2, translated from Acta Apostolicae Sedis 47 (1955), pp. 838-847.
- Piero Marini, A Challenging Reform: Realizing the Vision of the Liturgical Renewal, 1963-1975 (Liturgical Press 2007), quotation: "new standard editions of the Breviary (April 5, 1961)" ..."
- Paul Bradshaw and Maxwell E. Johnson, The Eucharistic Liturgies: Their evolution and interpretation (SPCK 2012), quotation: "A new Roman Breviary was released in 1961"
- Magnificat Media: Liturgical Books of the Roman Liturgy
- [https://lmswrexham.weebly.com/news-blog/the-changes-to-the-breviary-in-the-60s-and-70s The Latin Mass Society: "The changes to the Breviary in the 60's and 70's"}
- "If the Office is recited in choir or in common, Matins is not anticipated the evening before, but is said in the morning at a suitable hour. In churches where the Mass of the Chrism is celebrated, however, Matins may be anticipated the evening before." Introductory rubric, Matins, Thursday of the Lord’s Supper, The Hours of the Divine Office in English and Latin, vol. 2 (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1964) p. 1099. "In accord with the typical edition."
- Catholic Church The Complete Office of Holy Week According to the Roman Missal and Breviary, in Latin and English, pp. 184–250; 282–336; 380–418 Benziger brothers, 1875
- Prosper Guéranger, translated by Laurence Shepherd. Passiontide and Holy Week, Volume VI of The Liturgical Year, pp. 304–352; 414–450; 519–546 Dublin, 1870.
- Leo Kelly, "Tenebrae Hearse," The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 7 (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910).
- Adrian Fortescue, The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, 1917, p. 288.
- Liber Usualis, p. 631. Other Gregorian melodic patterns are found in manuscripts, but only this one is now commonly used (Lamentations, Book of.
- Congregation for Divine Worship, Circular Letter Paschalis sollemnitatis Concerning the Preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts (16 January 1988), n. 40: Notitiae 24 (1988) pp. 81-107
- "On Good Friday and Holy Saturday a public celebration of the Office of Readings with the people should take place before Morning Prayer, as far as this is possible." Congregation for Divine Worship, General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, n. 210. "It is also desirable that, if at all possible, the bishop take part with the clergy and people in the office of readings and morning prayer on Good Friday and Holy Saturday" Congregation for Divine Worship, Ceremonial of Bishops (1984), n. 296; also nn. 189 and 217.
- See General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, n. 73; Ceremonial of Bishops (1984), nn. 214-216.
- Liber Usualis (1961), p. 625]
- Reform of the Holy Week Liturgy at the Holy Sepulchre
- Jesuit Institute: The Liturgy of Tenebrae
- Tenebrae for Holy Week - Back by Popular Demand
- Diocese of Savannah: Tenebrae Service and Concert
- Diocese of Trenton: Tenebrae Service
- Regina magazine: Time to bring Tenebrae out of the shadows
- Ravensworth Baptist Church, Annandale, Virginia. "Holy Week 2012" in News from the Corner, April 1–14, 2012
- Tomasz Jeż. "The Motets of Jacob Handl in Inter-confessional Silesian Liturgical Practice" in De musica disserenda III/2, 2007, pp. 37–48
- Melamed, Daniel R. (1995). J.S. Bach and the German Motet. Cambridge University Press. pp. 148–149. ISBN 0-52-141864-X.
- Church Publishing The Book of Occasional Services • 2003, pp. 74–83. New York, 2004. ISBN 089869664X ISBN 9780898696646
- "The Three Days: traditions of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Vigil of Easter". Living Lutheran.
- The United Methodist Book of Worship. Kingswood Books. 5 April 2016. p. 299-301. ISBN 9781426735004.
- United Church of Christ. "Tenebrae: Service of Shadows - Good Friday - April 6, 2012" in Worship Ways
- Roman Catholic devotions: Tenebrae
- An Episcopal Tenebrae service
- Tenebrae - Catholic Encyclopedia article
- Tenebrae Hearse - Catholic Encyclopedia article
- Presbyterian Tenebrae Order of Service
- United Methodist Church Tenebrae
- Sample non-denominational Tenebrae
- Tenebrae (an Explanation) in St. Louis, MO