Tenebrae (Latin for “shadows” or “darkness”) is a service of worship for
Good Friday before Easter Sunday. Tenebrae is characterized by a series
of Scripture readings and meditations done in stages while lights and/or
candles are gradually extinguished to symbolize the growing darkness not
only of Jesus’ death but of hopelessness in the world without God. The
service ends in darkness with a final candle extinguished, symbolizing the
death of Jesus. The service concludes with the ordinance of Communion.
This Service of Tenebrae uses the eight biblical Stations of the Cross as a
framework for the Scripture readings, meditations, and prayers. We will
follow Jesus along the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrow, as he journeys
form Pilate’s Hall to his death on the cross.

Preparation & Supplies

1. A copy of the “Journey to the Cross” guide for each person
participating in the service to follow along.

2. Eight large candles in holders.

3. Sacraments for Communion (elements to symbolize Jesus’ broken
body and shed blood). *We recommend preparing this as a family beforehand.

4. Turn out all lights. Only use the eight candles to light the room where
you are watching the service.

Station 1 // Pilate Condemns Jesus to Die


11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him,
“Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But
when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer.
13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify
against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge,
so that the governor was greatly amazed. – Matthew 27:11-14
24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot
was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd,
saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25 And all
the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then
he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged[Jesus, delivered him
to be crucified.

– Matthew 27:24-26


I find it easy to condemn the moral cowardice of Pilate. Have I ever given
in to pressure from others to take the easy path rather than the right path?
Have I ever chosen the easy path over the right path?
*Ponder this thought in silent prayer and meditation.


Audible Prayer – Jesus, I see in your silence the quiet strength that reveals
a peace and a resolve. O Lord, help me deal with the unfairness of life
without becoming critical of others. Help me to be sensitive to the pain
and feelings of others. Give me the courage to do what is right without
being swayed by the demands of others.
Extinguish the first candle.

Station 2 // Jesus Accepts His Cross

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s
headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. 28 And
they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a
crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand.
And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the
Jews!” 30 And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the
head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe
and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

– Matthew 27:27-31

Am I willing to yield my ideas of what the Kingdom should look like for the
role of a servant? Am I really willing to give up my human preoccupation
with power and control and accept a different kind of crown than I was
*Ponder this thought in silent prayer and meditation.


Audible Prayer – Jesus, forgive me for forgetting that in my weakness I am
driven to trust on you, and that in such trust my weakness becomes your
strength. Forgive my attitudes of self-pity that make me more repulsive
than loving. I do not ask for crosses to bear. But when they come, give me
the strength to bear them as one who follows your example.
Extinguish the second candle.

Station 3 // Simon Helps Carry the Cross

21 And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in
from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. 22
And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of
a Skull). 23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not
take it.

– Mark 15:21-23

26 And as they led him away, they seized one Simon of Cyrene, who was
coming in from the country, and laid on him the cross, to carry it behind

– Luke 23:26


I would like to think that if I had been there I would have rushed from the
crowd and volunteered to carry that cross for you. But would I have had
the courage to face the Roman soldiers and risk being forced to join you
on a cross? Would I have really been so eager to share your cross if it
meant that I might have to die on one as well? Would I have been willing to
risk everything to ease your suffering for a few moments by letting you
know that you were not alone?
*Ponder this thought in silent prayer and meditation.

Audible Prayer – Jesus, forgive me for becoming so preoccupied with
myself that I have become deaf and blind to the grief and suffering of
those around me. Forgive me for my indifference. Constantly remind me
that I cannot love you without loving others as well. Help me always
remember that to be a follower of yours means that I share in the burdens
of others. Lord, show me someone whose cross I may help carry.

Extinguish the third candle.

Station 4 // Jesus Speaks to the Women

27 And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women
who were mourning and lamenting for him. 28 But turning to them Jesus
said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for
yourselves and for your children. 29 For behold, the days are coming when
they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and
the breasts that never nursed!’ 30 Then they will begin to say to the
mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ 31 For if they do these
things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

– Luke 23:27-31

Is that what you mean by these strange words? Is it possible that your
death is only the beginning of things for which to weep? Is it possible that
our refusal to repent and change the way we live is causing these
beginnings of sorrow? Is our own sin and our refusal to confess it really
the reason you are on this path?
*Ponder this thought in silent prayer and meditation.

Audible Prayer – Jesus, forgive my unwillingness to repent, to confess all
that I am before you. Help me go beyond the repentance mouthed in
words of false piety, to sweep away all the facades of who I try so hard to
be before others, and recall who I really am inside. Help me once again
stand before God with a bare and open heart. Help me not just to repent in
words, but to put that repentance into action in everything I am and do. O
Lord, give me the gift of tears to weep for my own failures, for my sins, for
the pain I bring to others, and to live the fruits of repentance.

Extinguish the fourth candle.

Station 5 // Jesus Is Stripped of His Garments

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and
divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But
the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24 so they
said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it
shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my
garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers
did these things.

– John 19:23-24

Are you still trying to teach us something about what it means to serve
others? Is your surrender to such degradation a model for how we are to
live in the world as your followers? I don’t like such an idea. I would rather
walk with you into Jerusalem with the praise of the people ringing in my
ears than to risk such humiliation. I want to follow you! Is this really what it
means to be a follower, that I must lay aside everything and risk this kind
of degradation?
*Ponder this thought in silent prayer and meditation.

Audible Prayer – Jesus, forgive me for wanting to take the path of glory
and reward. Forgive me for my selfishness that wants to serve you in easy
ways and seeks the reward of others’ praise. Lord, teach me the humility
of spirit that replaces self-centeredness with a sacrificial spirit. Make me
vulnerable so that I may follow your example. Help me see those around
me who are in need. Give me the courage to lay aside the things that I use
to hide from their need, and find ways to minister to others as you have
shown us.

Extinguish the fifth candle.

Station 6 // Jesus Is Nailed to the Cross

24 And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting
lots for them, to decide what each should take. 25 And it was the third
hour when they crucified him. 26 And the inscription of the charge against
him read, “The King of the Jews.” 27 And with him they crucified two
robbers, one on his right and one on his left. 29 And those who passed by
derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would
destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself, and come
down from the cross!” 31 So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked
him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. 32
Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we
may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.
– Mark 15:24-32

Would I have done differently? Is the guilt just of those who drove the nails
and the rest of us are innocent? Or is it human sin that drives the nails? My
sin. The old American spiritual asks the question, “Were you there when
they crucified my Lord?”
*Ponder this thought in silent prayer and meditation.

Audible Prayer – Jesus, remind me of the deathly cost of sin. Forgive me
for those things I have done that are displeasing to you. Forgive me for not
allowing you to deal with the darkness that I harbor in the hidden recesses
of my heart. Forgive me for fooling myself into believing that I am more
righteous than I am, that I am better than others, and that I have no need
to repent. Forgive me for those things I should have done, but found
excuses not to do. O Lord, make me better than I am, transform me into
what I can be by your grace.

Extinguish the sixth candle.

Station 7 // Jesus Cares for His Mother

25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s
sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw
his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his
mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple,
“Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own

– John 19:25-27

And what brought this one disciple to be standing before your cross? The
others have all run away in fear or disappointment. This disciple could be
in real danger. Besides he is standing with the women. Men just don’t
associate with women who are not from their own family. What is he
doing? Why is he here? Yet, you trust him so much that you tell him to take
care of your mother for the rest of her life. Are you asking the same of me
about other people’s mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers? Am I willing to
accept the others that God entrusts me to love?
*Ponder this thought in silent prayer and meditation.

Audible Prayer – Jesus, make me whole so that I may love with the
compassion with which you love. Give me the courage to stand beside
those who are hurting and share their pain. You know everything about
me, my weakness, my faults, and my sin. Redeem me and make me new.
Through your strength and by your grace, make me a conduit of your love,
not just to the lovable, but to any who need to be cared for and loved.

Extinguish the seventh candle.

Station 8 // Jesus Dies on the Cross

33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole
land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud
voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God,
why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it
said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge
with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait,
let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus
uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple
was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who
stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly
this man was the Son of God!”

– Mark 15:33-39

You never stopped loving me even in death. Oh, how I wish I had shown
my love for you more while you were here. You died because of human sin,
because of me. Yet we know that sin is never the final word. God can
redeem the worst that human beings can do. But this? What can come of
this? What can God do with such a final ending? We hope, we wait…
*Ponder this thought in silent prayer and meditation.

Audible Prayer – Jesus, I cannot comprehend the depth and breadth of
your love. There are not enough words in all languages together to
describe what your love means to me. May my love for you and my love
for all your children in some way reflect your love. Let this dark night
become fertile soil for growth in your love and for our growth as a
community of Faith. May you use this night to teach us how to love you
and to love others the way you have loved us. O Lord, we long for
newness, for hope, for renewal, for life where there is now death. Out of
this darkness bring to us the light of a new dawn. O Lord, have mercy on

Extinguish the eighth candle.

*Remain in silence until the leader provides instructions.