The name Tenebrae (the Latin word for “darkness”) has for centuries been applied to the ancient monastic night and early morning services (Matins and Lauds) of the last three days of Holy Week, which in medieval times came to be celebrated on the preceding evenings. The most conspicuous feature of the service is the gradual extinguishing of candles and other lights in the church until only a single candle, considered the symbol of our Lord, remains. Toward the end of the service the candle is hidden, typifying the apparent victory of the forces of evil. At the very end, a loud noise is made, symbolizing the earthquake at the time of the resurrection (Matthew 28:2). The hidden candle is restored to its place, and by its light all depart in silence.

This ancient service speaks poignantly to the pain and alienation experienced by so many in our world today. Tenebrae was initiated at Holy Apostles in 1985 by our late Director of Music, Frank Santo. For Frank, who himself died of AIDS, the slow extinguishing of the light and the austerity of the music which characterize this service symbolized the intense loneliness and loss that many people who are homeless and especially those with HIV have experienced. In this time of natural disasters, war and terrorism, the significance of this service is all the greater.

Over the years, Tenebrae has evoked many different faces of human suffering: disease, violence, death, poverty, isolation, oppression, abandonment, war, terrorism, and natural disasters. As we hear the psalms of lament and meditate on the passion of Christ, our attention is drawn to God’s presence with all who are in need, and we are invited to reflect on our responses to suffering wherever it touches our lives. This year at the Church of the Holy Apostles, will dedicate the service to the homeless and hungry who come to our doors each weekday; and a freewill offering will be taken up for the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. We will reflect on and pray for all who struggle with rejection by family members, homelessness, and poverty on their way to independence. All are welcome.