Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Those who know Latin know that it means “darkness” or “shadows.” I know it as some of the most profound worship of my year.
The format is simple: 15 candles are the only light in the darkened sanctuary. As the passion story of Christ is read, one vignette at a time, the candles are slowly extinguished. When Jesus dies on the cross the last candle goes out. All is in darkness. A cymbal is crashed and fades into silence. Eventually a single light reappears with the reading “surely this man was God’s son!” All exit in silence.
In the service I will lead Thursday evening I add some music – beautiful, solemn, reflective music that helps us to go to the depths, to be “pro-found” (from the Old English meaning “bottom”).
The music has power. The darkness has power. The silence has power. More than anything, the story has power… simply told, simply heard… in a brief moment simply lived.
There is lots of room in Christian worship for joy and happiness, for noise and drums and guitars and chatter, for perky songs and constant musical bridges between and through prayers and readings.
Surely there is also room for silence, the simple word, the darkness… for tenebrae
…because the darkness is not absent from the depths of my life, and to discover it within the depths of Jesus is somehow saving.
Shalom, Doug Goodwin

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