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Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

When my sister and I were little girls,
we thought that it was somehow not right
if the sun shone brightly on Good Friday

 On that day, we thought, it was supposed to be gray.
And we shouldn't play.  At least, not loudly.

Mother Nature's cooperating this year; it's overcast and chill here in northern New Jersey.   Our daughter Anne is coming home this afternoon for the weekend, and this evening she and I will be at the Service of Tenebrae at our church.

If you have never experienced a Tenebrae service, it is a moving and emotional experience.  Every congregation does it slightly differently; it is a very ancient service of Holy Week, now usually done on Good Friday but occasionally on Maundy Thursday.

Instead of the usual liturgy, there is a series of Scripture readings and prayers, bridged with the plaintive minor-keyed hymns of Lent.   Tenebrae is Latin for darkness, or shadow, and the Dark plays its part in this Good Friday service. 

After each reading, a single candle is extinguished from the seven in the triangular candleholder -- called a hearse -- and the lights in the church are slightly dimmed until, at the time of the last reading, the lights are turned off completely, and the last candle, representing Jesus after crucifixion, is removed from the altar.

The congregation waits in darkened silence, until a loud noise, like that of an earthquake, signals the time for the single candle to be brought back into the church, and take its place on the altar.  

The Light of the World has not been extinguished.

In our congregation, we greet this by singing "Beautiful Saviour."  There is no benediction to end the service; we will return on Easter morning for that, and we leave the church in total silence, until we are in our cars and off the church grounds.

The first time I brought my daughters to this service, they were 8 and 9 years old, and partway through I looked down, and tears were coursing down their cheeks.  It's a good thing mothers always have tissues in their handbags.

As I drove out of the parking lot that night, I started to say something to them, and was soundly shushed by the girls:  "Mom!  You're not supposed to talk!" they whispered, quite fiercely, shocked that Mom could be so crass.

As we enter this Easter weekend, with its roller-coaster ride of emotions from despair to celebration -- I wish you all great blessings and joy, and a right and goodly mix of tears and laughter.

And now I need to go boil eggs, another ancient symbol!  
Do you, like I, treasure these connections to the many generations gone before?  -- Cass

The Spencerian graphic at the top of the post
is courtesy of The Graphics Fairy.  Thank you!


  1. I remember feeling exactly the same about Good Friday and weather when I was a child in Catholic School. I also always kind of expected something dramatic at 3:00 p.m. (the supposed time that Jesus died.) I was disappointed many, many times!

  2. C~..
    I too treasure the traditions from the past..
    and usher them into the present..
    and no..
    never attended a service like that before..
    sounds very moving..
    and yes..
    Moms always have tissues,,
    no matter the urgency or emergency!
    have a blessed Easter!
    warmest hugs..

  3. Sounds like a beautiful service, never heard of it. Thanks for sharing and Happy Easter.

  4. Isn't that interesting ... all day I've been thinking about Good Fridays when I was a child and how I would expect the day to darken just after the noon hour. And today here, also, is dark. And a service tonight but not quite the same as yours but I enjoyed reading about yours. I too treasure those traditions from the past ... and have been known to color Easter eggs all by myself in our empty nest. Enjoy your daughter at home and have a happy Easter.

  5. Wonderful explanation on what a lot of us Christians do on Good Friday. Neat memory w/ your daughters shooshing you.

  6. I have never heard of that type of service before and find it very interesting. I too, always felt Good Friday should be a dark or cloudy day but today was beautifully sunny. We spent the day in church rehersing for our Easter Drama which we presented this evening and will again on Sunday evening. Happy Easter!

  7. The service sounds really interesting...I've been to nothing like it! Happy you could attend it with Anne! It's been gloomy and rainy here all day, too, as I expected, but Easter just always seems to be sunny... Just checked my phone weather app and it looks like rain on Sunday, too!

    I will be coloring Easter eggs alone tomorrow unless the girls happen to come in and get envious. If I ask them they will be offended!!

    Many Easter blessings, Cass. Thanks for a wonderful post, dear.


  8. I love ritual and symbols and meaning. This service sounds so meaningful. Your girls were great.

  9. We have the same service in our church. The service is so beautiful as it represents the true meaning of the Passion of Christ.


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