eric gill - tomb_9
 There are three MP3 files for this Service.

First Nocturn: The Trial

Second Nocturn: The Crucifixion

Third Nocturn: The Burial

Tenebrae is an special celebration of the Night Office on the last three days before Easter.  Before the service begins, light as many as 9 candles.  One candle is then extinguished after each psalm (or sung text) until only one candle is left burning.  At the end of the service, this final candle is taken out of the space so the room is left in absolute darkness.  A rumbling sound is then made by pounding on hymnals or chairs (reminiscent of the earthquake at the time of Jesus’ death) until the lighted candle re-appears.  Then, after moments in unbroken silence, all those present depart.  There is no greeting, blessing or  dismissal.


First Nocturn: The Trial


Their leaders rise up in fury: they plot against Adonai and God’s Anointed One.

Psalm 2

Why all this raucous among the nations;

among the peoples this useless murmuring?

Kings of the earth stand against God,

nobles plot against Adonai and the Anointed.

“Come, let us break these fetters,

let us cast off the yoke of these chains.”


The One who sits in heaven is amused;

how foolish these mortals in  charge!

Then God declares with firmness

and all of them are struck with fear:

“On Zion, my holy mountain,

I have anointed my king!”


I will repeat the decree of Adonai:


Adonai said to me: ” You are my Son,

today I give you birth.

Ask and I will give you the nations

even the far-off lands.

You will strike evil with an iron rod,

shatter it like a potter’s jar.”


Now, O kings, come to your senses,

take warning all rulers on earth;

Serve Adonai with joy;

worship with wonder and awe;

for without Love you will certainly perish;

disappear in less than a flash.


Blessed are those who put their trust in Adonai.

Their leaders rise up in fury: they plot against Adonai and God’s Anointed One  .

Extinguish the first candle.


Reading   Lamentations 3: 1-5



R. All you who pass this way, look and see.

V. Is any sorrow like the sorrow that afflicts me?

V.  Women of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but for yourselves, and for your children.

V. Abba, forgive them; they know not what they do.

V. My God, My God, Why have you abandoned me?


Extinguish the second candle.


Silent Prayer


Almighty and ever-loving God,  your Son wept over Jerusalem and, like  a mother hen, stretched out his arms on the cross to gather her children.  May all who celebrate his Passover find comfort and protection under those mighty wings, for he lives and loves with you and the Holy Spirit, one God  forever and ever.  Amen.


Extinguish the third candle.


Second Nocturn: The crucifixion


My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?.

Psalm 21/22


Extinguish the fourth candle.

Reading   John 19:25-37



There was darkness over all the land, while the  leaders crucified Jesus, and at the ninth hour, Jesus cried in a loud voice: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? *and bowing his head, he gave up his spirit. 

V. Jesus, crying with a loud voice said: Abba, into your hands I commend my spirit. *and  bowing  his head, he gave up his spirit.


Extinguish the fifth candle.


Silent Prayer



Almighty and ever-loving God, You have given the human race Jesus Christ our Savior as a model of humility and patience.  He fulfilled your will by becoming one of us and giving himself totally on the cross.  Help us to bear witness to you by following his example  of selfless love, even unto death and so make us worthy to share in his resurrection.  We ask this through the same Christ Jesus who lives and loves with you and the Holy Spirit, one God  forever and ever.  Amen.

 Extinguish the sixth candle.




Friend and neighbor you have taken from me; darkness is all I have left.

Psalm 87/88

Adonai Elohim, I call for help by day;

I cry at night before you.

Let my prayer come into your presence.

O turn your ear to my cry.


For my soul is filled with evils;

my life is on the brink of the grave.

I am reckoned as one in the tomb:

I have reached the end of my strength.


You have laid m in the pit of the tomb,

in places that are dark, in the depths.

It seems you are angry with me

I am drowned beneath your waves.


You have taken away my friends

and made me hateful in their sight.

Imprisoned, I cannot escape;

my eyes are sunken with grief.


I call to you Adonai, all the day long

to you I stretch out my hands.

Will you work your wonders for the dead?

Will the shadows stand and praise you?


As for me, Adonai, I ask for help;

in the morning my prayer comes before you.

Adonai, must you reject me–

or  hide  your face from my pleading.


Wretched and close to death from my youth,

I have borne these trials; I am numb.

Such fury has swept down upon me;

Terrors have utterly destroyed me.


They surround me all day like a flood;

they assail me all together.

Friend and neighbor you have taken away:

my one companion is darkness.


Extinguish the seventh candle.

Reading   The Noble Joseph (Byzantine Liturgy)



The cross stands empty in a world Grown silent with a holy dread.

All earth awaits the rising Sun, While Christ goes down to wake the dead.


He summons Adam and the rest Brings light where darkness, endless seemed.

He frees and claims those long held bound Who, with the living, are redeemed.


Immortal, holy, mighty God, Whose love the speak for us floods forth:

What love, self-emptied and outpoured, for East and West, for South and North.


With Abba and the Paraclete give praise to Christ the crucified,

Who through the ages seeks to save All humankind for whom he died.


Extinguish the eighth candle.


Silent Prayer



Final Prayer


Almighty and ever-loving God,  the noble Joseph went by night to ask for the body of Jesus and gently laid him in a tomb. May we who have mourned the death of the Lord, come to share the fullness of his resurrection. We ask this through the same Love, Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen


Remove the last candle (hide it in darkness) while all pray the Our Father silently in the midst of loud noises, banging, and stomping as if creating an earthquake).
When the candle reappears, keep silence for as long as you are able.
Spend some of the night in silent prayer