Holy Wednesday–Into Darkness

The traditional service for Wednesday night before Maundy Thursday is known as Tenebrae. Services vary among denominations, but most of them feature the gradual extinguishing of lights in the sanctuary until the service ends in total darknesss. This night marks the beginning of the end, the descent into despair that will be miraculously lifted by the dawn of Easter.

Here is Paul Celan (whose poetry is holy despair all through) reading his “Tenebrae.” And here’s a translation.

The music for these services often consists of settings of texts from the Lamentations of Jeremiah. A few examples:

Victoria (with an interesting bit of history of the (d)evolution of Tenebrae services)


  1. Great stuff. It looks like the second link is also Victoria.

    One of my favorites is Couperin.

  2. i assume you know it, k, but just in case:

    By Donald Hall

    When I see the cradle rocking
    What is it that I see?
    I see a rood on the hilltop
    Of Calvary.

    When I hear the cattle lowing
    What is it that they say?
    They say that shadows feasted
    At Tenebrae.

    When I know that the grave is empty,
    Absence eviscerates me,
    And I dwell in a cavernous, constant
    Horror vacui.

  3. Thanks for all the Holy Week pieces, Kristine. Also Bill – I enjoyed the Couperin as well. I appreciate the help to celebrate this special part of the year.

  4. Kristine says:

    Thanks, Bill. Fixed.

  5. Is there any way this site could be made to enlarge the print om ipads as is possible on some other sites? The print is very difficult to read. Thanks.

  6. Thank you! I am loving Holy Week, and these holy sounds make it even better.

%d bloggers like this: