Illuminating Liturgy – A Tenebrae Service around St John’s Passion

Tenebrae services, or Services of Shadows, come in many variations. This present service is structured around the account of the arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus given in St John’s Gospel, divided into seven sections. This text is the set Gospel reading for Good Friday which, on account of its length, is often not heard in its entirety in Good Friday services. Using this text for a Tenebrae service on Maundy Thursday or another evening in Holy Week makes possible a hearing of the whole of the narrative as preparation for whatever shorter part of the set Gospel might be used on Good Friday.

The service simply allows John’s passion narrative to unfold, punctuated by periods of silent reflection, a sung refrain and the extinguishing of a candle after each section. An opening and closing prayer are the principle points of interpretation of the narrative, which is otherwise heard without comment.

The service concludes with a final prayer and musical reflection before the people depart in silence, when ready.

This service is shared in the hope that it might be of use to others. Please feel free to download the service document (in MS Word .docx format) and adapt it as appropriate to your local context. We’d love to hear whether it has been useful to you!