The liturgy for Good Friday that we follow is called the Tenebrae service, which is the service of darkness. There are different ways it can be arranged. A traditional one of the seven words from the cross. We have in the past followed something like the final stations of the cross. This year, looking at Luke whose year it is, we arranged it as a triptych. The above is my hack attempt at that.
The meditations look at what fails us, and then what hope is available in each scene. In the Garden of Gethsemane, it is personal failures. Failures of friends and associates and even the temptation of the self of our human nature. The hope is that prayer is always there. And God answers prayer. Maybe not how we would like, but he walks with us through the trials. The trials themselves are the failure of our institutions. Knowing our personal failures we invest our hope in groups. These too fail us, at exactly the time we need them. The hope is that while we often run from the truth, God brings the Truth out, even when we don’t like it. And it is the Truth that wins. And that points to the center panel, the crucifixion. There we find our real hope.
The service is a Good Friday Tenebrae service built around the seven last words from the cross. The Choir sings an opening, middle and closing as well as the texts. After each text there is a short meditation on it. The congregation responds singing the hymnals meditation LSB 447, Jesus, In Your Dying Woes. Then slowly, one-by-one, seven candles are extinguished.
It is a unique service and a unique preaching chance. It is seven mini-sermons. It is seven funeral sermons in a way. Words that are full of pathos, and prayerfully hope.
Our Good Friday service tonight differed from our normal community reading of the passion story. Our choir took on the task of Carl Schalk’s Seven Words from the Cross. That piece formed the reading. It was followed by a short meditation on those words and then a congregational response in the form of LSB 447, Jesus in Your Dying Woes, which is a form of the Seven Words devotional itself. One of the seven candles are put out after each of the words. The recording is the full service.
Our Good Friday service at St. Mark’s is a Tenebrae or Shadows service. I obviously can’t replicate the visual experience of this service as the light go off reading after readings. But what I have grown to love is the raw essence of this service. We read the entire passion story from Gethsemane to burial and we do that with voices from the congregation. Those contemporary voices blend with the hymns that have been paired after the readings. Its a living example of religion. We received this, we make it our own and then we tell it.
The great English-American poet W. H. Auden once heard a lecture in which, as Edward Mendelson recounts the scene, the speaker said that, “Jesus and Buddha were the same in effect: they were both attacked by spears, but in the Buddha’s case, the spears turned into flowers.” Auden bristled at this, shouting from the back of the lecture hall, “ON GOOD FRIDAY THE SPEARS WERE REAL.”
I knew I liked Auden. Source, Wesley Hill. The rest i worth reading, painful, but real.