Tenebrae service a reminder of lasting light in the darkness

By Sr Sophie Boffa, 13 April 2022
A seminarian of the Diocese of Parramatta extinguishing a candle during the Tenebrae service on April 11. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.


While many of us might think of Holy Week as a time of solemn reflection, and even of darkness, the traditional Tenebrae service, held this year on Monday 11 April at St Patrick’s Cathedral, is a reminder of the eternal light and hope brought into the world through Christ’s Resurrection.

The Tenebrae service, which has its roots in medieval tradition and can be celebrated on varying days of Holy Week, uses scripture, song, darkness and light to evoke the events of the Easter Triduum. Between the chanting of psalms and the reading of scripture, fourteen candles are extinguished.

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Bishop Vincent Long presiding at the Tenebrae service. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.


The cathedral choir, led by Bernard Kirkpatrick, providing sacred music during the service. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.


Perhaps the most poignant moment of the service occurred when, at the conclusion of the service, the fifteenth candle representing Christ was removed from the space. In the darkness, the congregation began the “Strepitus”, or “great noise”, stamping their feet or tapping the pews in a symbolic reference to the earthquake which shook the world after Jesus’ death. After the last echoes of the Strepitus died down, the Christ candle was brought back into the Cathedral and the congregation departed in silent reflection.

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Participants creating the “Strepitus”, or “great noise”, symbolic of the earthquake which occurred following the death of Jesus. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.


A seminarian of the Diocese returns the Christ candle. Image: Diocese of Parramatta.


Presiding over the service was Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta. Also in attendance were Fr Peter Williams, Vicar General, Fr Robert Riedling, Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Fr Christopher del Rosario, Diocesan Master of Ceremonies, Deacon Matthew Dimian, and seminarians from Holy Spirit Seminary, Harris Park. Music was provided by St Patrick’s Cathedral Choir, and by cantors Bernard Kirkpatrick KSS, choir director, and Samuel Verceluz.

Related: Good vibes as parishes celebrate Palm Sunday


Watch the video of the livestream from St Patrick’s Cathedral here and check out Holy Week liturgy and Mass times across the Diocese by visiting catholicoutlook.org/holyweek2022.


View images from the Tenebrae service at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta here or below.

2022 Office of Tenebrae - St Patrick's Cathedral - 11 April 2022


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