Friday, April 10, 2009

for me.

i have always been struck by the power of the Good Friday Tenebrae service. the service is done in seven parts, one for each of the seven times Jesus spoke while on the cross, as His crucifixion is told again through the Gospels and the prophet Isaiah. after each of one of His statements is retold, the lights in the sanctuary are dimmed a bit and a candle is extinguished on the bare altar, until all that remains is the one lit Christ candle and a single red rose. this part of the service has always been the same for as long as i can remember.

the church i belong to now has an added element that i never experienced before attending here.

the church is in darkness at this point, except for the lone Christ candle and a spotlight on a seven-foot-tall cross. everyone in the church forms a line and approaches the cross, taking a nail from the basket and placing it into the cross. as Christians, we all know the story. we've heard countless times about the Crucifixion. we know Jesus died on the cross.

but to approach the cross... to hold a heavy nail in the palm of your hand... to stand before it and place the nail into the rough wood with your own fingers... it really drives it home. *i* did this. it was *me*. not just the vague abstract me but the real life me. every wrong thing i have ever done in my life... every wrong thing i will ever do... it wasn't just for "me". it was for *me*.

after the last nail is placed into the cross, the Pastor takes the Christ candle from the altar and walks back up the aisle with it to the back of the church and out of the sanctuary, as the spotlight on the cross fades to dark. in the silence, a bell tolls 33 times, one for every year Jesus lived. there is a loud bang to symbolize the rock sealing the tomb.

for a minute or two, everything is silent and dark. there is introspection, contemplation, sadness. it is incredibly powerful. i find it difficult to believe that any Christian could *not* be moved by this service.

and then the Pastor re-enters the church. he stands in the back with the lit Christ candle as the congregation whispers the Lord's prayer. there is no Benediction because the service is not over. the story doesn't end here. we are merely waiting for the conclusion. we are waiting for Easter morning. as the hymn "Go to Dark Gethsemane" says, "all is solitude and gloom..."

but in that one candle, flickering in the darkness, we have hope.

tonight we leave in total silence. tomorrow we wait. we wait for Sunday morning...

9 with their own thoughts:

ApollyMan Friday, April 10, 2009 10:25:00 PM  

Praise our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! He is Risen!

Dani Friday, April 10, 2009 11:38:00 PM  

That is very powerful! I have never heard of this service. What denomination are you?

p.s. I stumbled on your blog and really enjoy your postings!

~**Dawn**~ Saturday, April 11, 2009 1:02:00 AM  

Dani: Lutheran, Missouri Synod. Since birth. Churches tend to have their own "traditions" though when it comes to special services like these and the ending of the Good Friday service happens to be something that neither of my childhood Lutheran churches ever did.

Anonymous,  Saturday, April 11, 2009 2:15:00 AM  

Wow - talk about powerful. I am moved just by your decription. I wish I was at home going to my church. The believe in God might be the same out here in the Middle Eastern Catholic churches (yes there are quite a few out here) but for some reason, I never feel quite as moved as I do when I am at home in the church that I regularly attend.

Thanks for all your posts. I love your blog btw :)

Bek Saturday, April 11, 2009 8:42:00 AM  

Wow, that service sounds really powerful. I don't think I've ever heard of that before. Happy Easter & God bless you!
p.s. I don't know you, just followed a link here!

Dani Saturday, April 11, 2009 10:25:00 PM  

Thanks for the info Dawn! I am Catholic and we don't have a service like that at our church. I wish we would, because like you said there is something very intimate and powerful about walking up to a cross- especially one that is life size. It really give you perspective.

I hope you have a great Easter!

Daniel James,  Monday, April 13, 2009 1:40:00 PM  

Dawn, thank you for sharing this. It is very very close to the Tenebrae office that Anglicans have - it sounds as though your pastor has combined it with a modified "veneration of the Cross" and the placement of the nails sounds very powerful. But the candlelight, the "bang," the ending, etc. are all the same. I am glad you love the Liturgy as I do. There is something about these ancient forms of worship we inherited from our elder brethren in the Church of Rome which are so moving and yet so able to *teach* the Faith in ways that words alone cannot.

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