Good Friday Service of Darkness
On Good Friday, the Christian Church remembers the crucifixion of our Lord. Although our remembrance is solemn, our message on this night is not one of gloom, but of adoration of Jesus, the Lamb of God, as he offers up his life as the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. Good Friday is part of the larger celebration of salvation begun yesterday, Maundy Thursday, and culminating in the Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord on Easter Day.
The Service of Darkness—often called Tenebrae (Latin for “darkness”)—is a dramatic service, but it is not a drama. We have not gathered to reenact Good Friday’s events, but to ponder our salvation during an austere time of reflection, intercession, adoration of the Lamb of God, and quiet meditation. We gather to celebrate the sacrifice of the cross.
Many variations of the Good Friday Service of Darkness exist. Some versions of the service, including tonight’s service, are built around the seven words or statements that Jesus made from the cross. Other versions are modern adaptations of medieval versions of the service. A common thread in all versions of the Service of Darkness is the gradual extinction of candles and the loud, symbolic sound at the end of the service.
In the chancel burns a seven-fold candelabrum in the shape of a crown of thorns. The candles will be extinguished as the service progresses, one after each of Jesus’ seven last words is read. At the end of the service, the final candle is removed from the chancel, leaving the sanctuary in tenebrae for silent prayer. The service is closed by a loud sound, called the strepitus (Latin for “crash” or “loud noise”). The strepitus has been interpreted by worshippers in a number of ways. Some see the it as a symbol to remind us of the stone that was rolled in front of Jesus’ tomb to shut it; others see it as a statement of the cataclysmic nature of Christ’s sacrifice; still others view it as foreshadowing the rending of Christ’s tomb at his resurrection on Easter morning. The final candle, which is still burning, is returned to its place at the end of the service before the congregation departs the church, leaving a symbolic glimmer of gospel hope amidst the gloom of Good Friday.
The mood of the service is most solemn, encouraging worshipers to reflect deeply upon their own lives in the light of the Passion of our Lord. No closing blessing is pronounced and the congregation disperses into the night, leaving the darkened church in silence, yet remembering the Light which lingers and casts hope through the gloom of Good Friday.
A Good Friday Service of Darkness
on Jesus’ Seven Words from the Cross
Presiding Minister: Pastor Jason Schmidt Accompanist: Shannon Schmidt
Organist & Choir Director: Rosemarie Boushek Oboe: Fred Beiderbecke