Wednesday, April 04, 2012


Circa thirty ears ago, in high school. We worked on a piece called "Tenebrae Factae Sunt."

There was darkness over the earth when the Jews crucified Jesus:
and about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice:
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
And he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.

Jesus cried with a loud voice and said,
Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.
And he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.

We sang it in English and never learned it well enough to perform it. But the word "tenebrae" stayed in my mind.

Circa twenty-five years ago, in college. While studying in Italy, I took a weekend trip to England and discovered Westminster Abbey and liturgical worship (an evensong service) and could hardly believe that such beauty, such focus on God, through readings, prayer, and music, was possible. I wondered if I would ever experience it again.

Circa four hours ago, in my current life. The Tenebrae service at St. John's, down the street from where I live. A service of readings from the psalms, Lamentations, Hebrews, Augustine, all focusing on the darkness of Christ's betrayal, loneliness, suffering, and death, and the love motivating it all. Song after song was sung, including the one above.

[He was] crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, he suffered and was buried.

Candle after candle was extinguished, leaving the church in darkness, kneeling, wondering, waiting, thinking, feeling. Some, like me, weeping.

But then the Song of Zechariah, from Luke 1:

In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

And from the Revelation of John:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes,
and there shall be no more death,
neither sorrow, nor crying.
Neither shall there be anymore pain, for the former things are passed away.
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

And in a dark and silent church, a single candle returns. And darkness does not have the final say.


CPMcMillion said...

Thank you for this beautiful, beautiful post. Reading, listening to the singing, crying, wondering at His willingness to reach so deeply into this darkness. Wondering at the hands that hold us so tenderly.

Anonymous said...

Oh, my, yes -- I remember this "Tenebrae" from HU, too. Beauty and depth are so attractive. I just wish there weren't such funny business and rampant assumptions associated with "high church" and such. I can't stomach the power structures.

You should write more, ya know? - Brian

Sheila said...

Thank you for the compliment, Brian. I trust that a time will come when living life will settle down and writing about life more will be possible.