Tenebrae

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‘Tenebrae’—
Latin for shadows or darkness

In the simple act of burning a candle, we have a beautiful illustration of the self-sacrifice involved in the giving of light.

The Tenebrae is an ancient Christian Good Friday service that makes use of gradually diminishing light through the extinguishing of candles as the church family journeys through the biblical texts of the Passion of Christ. As the readings progress, we accompany Jesus in His last hours, and the emotions felt during the service are always a powerful reminder of what Jesus endured for our sake on the cross. The increasing darkness symbolises God's Judgement being poured out on Jesus and the approaching darkness of His death.

Our service on Good Friday last week was a solemn and reflective time to focus on the events leading up to Christ’s death—not only this, but it was also a powerful time to join together as a church family sharing communion in the intimacy of a home as we recounted the Last Supper. As we worshipped, we reflected on the weight of Jesus' sacrifice made for our sake.


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After the last candle was extinguished, it was most moving and powerful to sit together in complete darkness, and listen to the ancient prophecy of Isaiah being read out in the light of Jesus death:

But He was pierced for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on Him,
and by His wounds we are healed.
— Isaiah 53:5

Every year, Tenebrae allows us to ponder afresh the betrayal, abandonment and agony of Jesus' suffering—it is powerfully affecting in a heart wrenching way. Indeed, it is purposefully left unfinished, because, as we would proclaim on Easter Sunday, the story isn’t over…

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