There are three MP3 files for this Service.

First Nocturn

Second Nocturn

Third Nocturn

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.





I burn with zeal for your house and taunts against you fall on me.

Psalm 68/69

Save me, O God,

for the waters have risen to my neck.

I am sinking in the mud,

without a rock to stand on,

plunged into the waters of the deep

and the waves now overwhelm me.


I am tired of shouting,

my throat is raw.

My eyes are swollen;

worn out from looking for God.


Many hate me without cause,

they outnumber the hairs on my head.

Those who attack me with lies

are too much for my strength.


Let those who hope in you not be ashamed

because of me, Adonai Sabbaoth:

May those seeking you not be humiliated

because of me, O God of Israel.


It is for your Name that I suffer insults,

that shame covers my face;

Rejected by my family

I am now a stranger to my kin.

I am consumed with zeal for your cause,

insults meant for you now  fall on me.


Adonai, hear this my prayer,

favor me now with your compassion,

and send me your ready help:

rescue me from sinking in the mud;

save me from all that I fear–

lift me above the rising waters.


Do not let these waters drown me,

the deep is ready to swallow me,

the pit  closes me in its mouth

unless you come to my aid.


Answer me, Adonai, for your love is kind

turn to me with your compassion.

Face me, I am desperate.

Answer your servant now,

Come quickly to my rescue

free me from all that I fear. 


Their insults have broken my spirit

I have reached the end of my strength.

I looked in vain for compassion

for comfort and sympathy, none could be found.

They poisoned all of my food

and gave me vinegar to drink.


As for me in my poverty and pain

let your help, O God, lift me up.


I will praise your Name with a song:

I will glorify you with thanksgiving:

A gift you prefer to oxen,

more to you than beasts for sacrifice.


The poor when they see it shall be glad

and God-seeking hearts will revive.

For Adonai listens to the needy

and does not spurn us in our chains.

Let the heavens and earth sing out their praise-

along with the sea and all living creatures.


For God will bring help to Zion

and rebuild the cities of Judah;

citizens will dwell there in safety.

Their children will inherit this blessing;

those who love God’s name shall always dwell there.

I burn with zeal for your house and taunts against you fall on me.

Extinguish the first candle.


Reading   Lamentations 1: 1-5



R. Stay with me, remain here with me.  Watch and pray;  watch and pray.

V. The spirit is eager, but the flesh is weak.

V.  Abba, if it be possible let this cup pass me by.

V.  Abba, if this cannot pass me by without my drinking it, your will be done.


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.




The wicked scoff; they speak with malice; they plan oppression from on high.

Psalm 72/73

How good God is to the just,

how faithful to the honest!

Yet I almost slipped,

came close to stumbling;

for I  envied the arrogant

as I watched them succeed.


Their bodies are perfect,

well-fed and healthy.

They remain untouched

by the troubles most of us bear.


They adorn themselves with pride,

wrap themselves in violence;

Decadent and slick,

they scheme recklessly,

mocking and snarling,

spewing out their threats.


They claim to own the heavens

and dictate to all on earth,

pulling people after them,

who swallow what they say.


They ask, “How would God know?

Does the Most  High see anything or care?”

These, then, are the wicked:

always richer, always strong.


How useless to keep my hands clean

or to keep my conscience clear,

When I suffered day after day

and each dawn brought me more pain.


Then I realized: “If I should speak like that

I would  betray your people.”


I struggled to fathom this problem,

but it was too hard to understand,

until  I saw things from Your view, Adonai:

Now I understand their fate.


They have chosen a slippery path,

they are sliding to their own destruction.

How soon will they come to ruin,

swept away in terror.

Like images from a dream,

they fade and disappear.


I had become embittered,

my sense and feelings were numb;

I was dull and did not understand,

as clueless as an ox.

But I was always in your  presence

and you took me by the hand.


You will teach me with your wisdom

and lead me into glory.

What more would I have in heaven?

Who else delights me on earth?

If mind and body fail,

You are my rock, my support forever.


Those who ignore you will perish;

the faithless destroy themselves.

But my joy is to be near you always,

For you, Adonai, are my refuge.

I will proclaim all your ways

at the gates of your city, Zion.

The wicked scoff; they speak with malice; they plan oppression from on high.

Extinguish the fourth candle.

Reading   Homily of Melito of Sardis



What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!  What wondrous Love is this, O my soul!

What wondrous love is this, that caused the Lord of Bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul!  To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!


When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down; When I was sinking down, sinking down; When I was sinking down quite sure that I would  drown, Christ laid aside his crown for my soul, for my soul; Christ laid aside his crown for my soul.


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.




In the day of my distress I sought Adonai, my hands were raised at night without ceasing.

Psalm 76/77

I cry to you, O God!

I plead with you to hear me!


By day I seek you in my distress

by night I raise my hands in prayer,

but my spirit refuses to be consoled.

I groan when I remember you;

when I think of you, I grow faint.


You keep me from falling asleep.

Troubled, I cannot speak.

I  consider how things used to be,

and remember the years gone by;

All night, memories fill my heart,

I brood and am full of questions.


Will God always forget me?

Never again be pleased?

Has God stopped loving me

and cut me off forever?

Can God forget how to pity,

or anything block God’s endless compassion?


It troubles me to think

the Almighty seems to have grown weak.

I recall your awesome deeds

your wonders in days gone by.

I reflect on all you have done,

and your works and mighty deeds.


You, Adonai, are holy.

What god can compare with you?

You are the God of power,

strong among all the nations.

You reached out to save your people

the children of your handmaids and servants.


When they saw you the waters churned,

shuddering and writhing in wonder,

with awe, convulsed to their depths.

The clouds poured down their rain,

thunder shook the heavens,

lightning darted like arrows.


As the thunder rolled across the sky,

and flashes lit up the world,

the earth trembled and quaked,

as you set a path through the sea,

a way through the raging waters

with no trace of your steps in the sand.


You guided your people like a flock,

with Moses and Aaron as shepherds.


In the day of my distress I sought Adonai, my hands were raised at night without ceasing.

Extinguish the seventh candle.

Reading   Hebrews 4:14-15:10



Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.


Extinguish the eighth candle.


Silent Prayer



Final Prayer


Almighty and ever-loving God,  Accept the sacrifice of our praise this night,

for  it is made in the name of Jesus Christ, our high priest and saving Love.

Strengthen us to keep watch during this Holy Triduum which we have begun this evening, that he may find us ready and waiting when he comes again.  We ask this through the same Love, Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and loves 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