Tenebrae: Service of Shadows

The Wednesday of Holy Week at St. Thomas, we are holding a Tenebrae Service. This may be a new liturgy for some people.  Tenebrae, “The Service of Shadows”, offers us a time to be prayful and reflective together in the midst of the darkness that is part of the Lenten season.  This is a quiet and contemplative service, very distinct from the other aspects of our Holy Week worship. Stepping into the shadows is something we choose to do.  It is a journey to understanding not only what is already clearly seen, but to stepping deeply into prayer and community to find the places less traveled, the nooks and crannies of our lives and our world where shadows remain.  Holy Week is filled with journeying…to Jerusalem, to the Mount of Olives, to the Garden at Gethsemane.   On this journey in particular, we crave connection even though the path that we travel can feel solitary.  I am always moved by the story of Jesus, praying in the Garden and asking his friends…his disciples…to stay and pray with him.  It is hard to do, and we see that reflected even in that Gospel narrative.  In Tenebrae, we journey together into the shadows that are a part of this holy and sacred week.  If you are able, join us in this journey (Wednesday, April 16 at 7:30 p.m.).

We can try so hard to avoid the shadows in life.  We can even (intentionally or unintentionally) step away from Lent, grow weary from being in the shadow of the Cross, and want to just skip ahead to the “new birth” part.  Maybe this reflects our own humanness:  our fear of death, of the unknown, of the shadows.  But, there is a gift in the depth of the shadows.   A gift in staying, in wresting with the darkness.   Mary Oliver captures it perfectly in her short poem:

The Uses of Sorrow

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

~Mary Oliver
(by Mary Oliver, from Thirst, Beacon Press, Boston, 2006)

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