And it was night

Four one-syllable words give moving poignancy to the account of the Last Supper in John’s Gospel. Judas leaves the Upper Room – and it was night. (John 13.30)

The darkness of that night penetrates the soul. Our places of anguish and suffering are held in, and joined to, that darkness. We reflect, we feel, we enter the shadows. In the darkness of that night Jesus prays, and invites his followers to pray too.

Tenebrae, meaning in Latin darkness, or shadows, is a poignant act of worship held at St Chrysostom’s in Passiontide. The plaintive music, the words of lament, anger and desertion articulate deep feelings in the darkness of the church. Slowly as the worship proceeds candles are extinguished until one alone remains. We enter the depths.

“Exploring themes of abandonment and persecution, especially in darkness, made Tenebrae a poignant and emotional service, but the single candle left unextinguished reminded me that light can always be found.” Sarah

“I found it a deeply moving service, feeling connected to the Lord in His hour of pain. It was therapeutic to be still in the shadows and yet united with the warmth of the whole church, present and departed, bearing witness side-by-side in grief.” Val

The words of the prayers help us to articulate our feelings and hopes:

Infinite God, before whom darkness is light and night shines like the day, show to us, in the night of abandonment the light of your faithfulness and love, and in the depths of despair come, seek us out and lead us into hope. We ask this through Jesus Christ. Amen.

You lead us, O Christ, through dark and desolate places, for you have entered the abyss and known the depths of abandonment. Put hope in our steps and light on our path, that we may have words to counsel the despairing and strength to support the faint hearted; you who suffered and bore our grief, our Saviour, now and for ever. Amen.

For a description and history of Tenebrae see this earlier entry on our church blog.


About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester, UK. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community rejoicing in our Anglo Catholic tradition, where people of many differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
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