As part of our Good Friday service bulletin we include this introduction to the service.
We gather to worship the Crucified Savior tonight at 7 p.m., Friday, April 18, 2014.
An Introduction to Good Friday – Tenebrae
We begin our liturgy as we ended the Maundy Thursday Liturgy: in silence. What was begun then continues this day as we journey with our Savior from the Last Supper, the stripping and humiliation, to the cross and tomb. Good Friday is the second day of the Triduum, the “Three Sacred Days” of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday with its Vigil of Easter.
The Good Friday Liturgy is marked with austerity, silence and reflection. The chancel itself is bare from the Maundy Thursday stripping. There is no organ music except to accompany the hymns and sung musical pieces. Everything focuses on our adoration of the crucified Christ, reigning from the throne of the cross.
The service of Tenebrae is an ancient Holy Week devotion which began in the 7th or 8th century, or possibly earlier. The name “Tenebrae” means shadows. The service takes its name from the ceremony of extinguishing in succession all the lights in the sanctuary, casting it into total darkness which is symbolic of the disciples’ desertion of our Lord, and of his death and burial.
The purpose of the Tenebrae Service is to aid us in realizing the total impact of the darkest day in the history of the world, the day Jesus died on the cross.
The opening portion of the liturgy includes no praise. It proceeds directly to the Prayer of the Day. It is a simplified version of our Sunday Liturgy of the Word. The chief acts are the reading of the Passion of St. John and the Bidding Prayer for the needs of our world. After each section of the Passion of St. John is read, there will be a time of silent meditation. Lights will begin to be extinguished or dimmed more after each reading and meditation until the sanctuary is in darkness.
A large cross, which vividly and dramatically portrays the events of this day, is then brought into the church in solemn procession to become the focus of our adoration of the crucified Christ. Placed upon at the front of the chancel, the crucifix is central to our meditations in word and in silence. The words of meditation are the ancient Reproaches. The words of reproach are those of God directed to us, his people, who have crucified the Savior of the world by our sin. The Reproaches expand upon the words of the prophet Micah (6:3-5) and burn in our hearts. The liturgy does not end on this note of reproach, however. The closing versicles and prayer emphasize the triumph and redemption that comes through the cross.
After the lights are all extinguished, the congregation will stand as the Paschal Candle is carried from the sanctuary reminding us of the burial of Jesus. A loud noise, made by the closing of a Bible, will remind us of the closing of the tomb as well as the fulfilling of the Scriptures and the completion of our Lord’s work on the cross for us.
The Paschal Candle (called the Christ Candle during Advent/Christmas) will not return until the beginning of the Great Vigil of Easter on Saturday evening at 7 p.m. On Good Friday we recognize that Jesus was fully dead and was placed in the borrowed tomb.
Note: The return of the Paschal Candle moments after the loud noise is a form of the Good Friday service designed to be used in those congregations which do not have the Great Vigil of Easter.
All will leave in silence to return tomorrow as we wait in vigil and then celebrate our Lord’s resurrection at the Great Vigil of Easter. At the Vigil tomorrow evening we will have the first Holy Communion in celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
After the Triduum we will continue our celebration on Sunday morning with the Sunrise service at 7:30 at the Carmine Cemetery, breakfast in the fellowship hall at 8 a.m. and the Festival Service at 9:00 a.m. Around 10:15-10:30 a.m. we will have the Resurrection Egg hunt and party for the children.
Click here to see the first post in this series about Maundy Thursday.
Thanks to Pr. Thomas L. Weitzel, ELCA. This introduction was adapted from his original work.