Steep yourself in Catholic Tradition and meditate on the Death of Christ at a Tenebrae service this Holy Week!

Tenebrae Hand Drawn Graphic
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Holy Week is my favorite week of the year! The Church is so active with multiple opportunities to receive the Sacraments and attend services. It can almost be overwhelming, thinking where should I spend my time and bring my family? When exploring the lost traditions of our faith, we are never let down by the beauty and goodness that lead souls closer to Christ. We took a shot in the dark, and with no prior research, attended a Tenebrae Service with 1 toddler. It was beautiful!

What is Holy Week?

Holy Week is the second week of Passion Tide! This is the week leading up to Easter. Starting on Palm Sunday, and ending on Holy Saturday, Holy Week helps us enter into the Passion of Christ. The Church in her wisdom, like in the Traditional Mass, has set up services to help us tune our senses to a spiritual reality. You can read more about how to keep Holy Week holy here!

What is Tenebrae?

Tenebrae means darkness in Latin. It originates from the Liturgy of the Hours, and it references “when darkness covered the whole land” at Jesus’ death. The title also symbolizes the time of day when the Liturgy of the Hours was preformed, and describes what takes place during the service.

During a traditional Tenebrae Service, there is only a capella singing. More details about the Tenebrae Service can be found here.

Silence, Song, Light, and Dark

The Tenebrae Service is very different from most of the Church’s Services, and rightfully so! It is a meditation on the willful suffering and death of Almighty God. Beginning with lit candles on the Tenebrae Hearse, the priest extinguishes each candle one by one, in union with the lights of the church slowly getting dimmer, or being shut off.

Tenebrae Prayer

Between each candle, the priest and people pray by song, and Scripture. Focusing on Jesus’ last days, the service continues like this until the church is completely black, with just the Christ candle lit. After most of the candles are extinguished, a loud noise is created, to signify the closing of the tomb. Then, everyone leaves in silence. What a glorious build up to the joy of Easter morning!

A Tenebrae Service Today

Changes to the Roman Breviary in 1961 and 1970 prohibit the Tenebrae Services from their intended days. These services were held during the Triduum, and each night is called a nocturn. Parishes hold morning prayers now in a similar manner of reading and prayer. You may recognize the style, where each half of the church proclaims a different line in the prayer.

Today, parishes who wish to hold Tenebrae Services do so before the Triduum. We have seen them held on Palm Sunday or Spy Wednesday, and they hold all three nights in one service.

Tenebrae Third Nocturn

Tenebrae With Children!

We only took one of our children to this years Tenebrae service, and she throughly enjoyed it. Our busy toddler sat (mostly) still for the entire 1 and a half hours, as we (lowly) chatted about the wonderful music, the lights dimming, the loud noise, and the prayers.

Unprepared with any children’s books related to the topic or verses, no coloring sheets, and no pep talk, she did great! It was a gift that our little one did as well as she did! We have noticed there is something about Catholic Tradition that speaks to the children, that draws them in, and they know it to be Good.

Rose noticed immediately when the statues were covered on Passion Sunday, at our local Church. The music and the lights in this service stood out to her as well. Bringing children to services such as these is not easy, and often times circumstances may not allow. However when an opportunity arises to help immerse our children in beauty and tradition, we are grateful!

Tenebrae Graphic with Palms

Have you ever been to a Tenebrae Service? Will you be attending one this Holy Week? Let us know in the comments below and check out our handmade at home in the USA Fine Art Print for your Lent this Holy Week, as we try to be the donkey, and bring Jesus to people!

Have a blessed Holy Week and a Glorious Easter!

Stella Maris, Ora Pro Nobis

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