Penny's Story

A cute little drummer living her dream.

Archive for tenebrae

My Superstar

   Last night while I was at the tenebrae service I was surprised to get as emotional as I did. As I was listening to the readings and giving my readings I was nearly moved to tears a few times; while I was reading the part of the story when Simon denies Jesus I nearly broke down. One of the reasons I value The Crossing so much is that it has really helped me connect my spiritual life with my reality; I never felt such a visceral connection to the stories in the Bible before coming to The Crossing.

   So, while I was at the service last night, I felt an urge to watch Jesus Christ Superstar. I just finished watching it. Superstar has been one of my favorite musicals since I first saw it live over fifteen years ago. I love the music, but there’s more to it than just the music. I tend to live my life very much in the “gray,” and I love the way all the participants are portrayed with internal conflict and doubts and confusion. Judas, especially, is presented as being very tormented by his actions and decisions. It makes the story so much more relate-able for me.

   I guess the thing that really seems to be hitting me during this holy week is all the personal drama within the story of Jesus’ final days. This time around what’s hitting me isn’t the grand miracles, but the personal dynamics. 

   Simon’s denial of Jesus is hitting a particular nerve for some reason. I guess the whole loyalty thing is really important to me; but of course, everyone has to do what they think is right given a set of circumstances. Painting this picture so vividly lets me relate to Simon’s fear and pain even as he denies his friend. And Judas is even more conflicted, feeling trapped into giving up his friend to save the rest of the group of people.

   I know that there’s as many opinions about what the stories in the Bible ~really~ mean as there are people who can read the Bible, but I don’t even need to talk about that. I don’t need to get into a debate about the specifics, here’s what I know: Jesus is the person I most try to use as my moral compass. The whole “What Would Jesus Do?” thing got very political in some groups, but I often ask myself that question. If I can live up to about a quarter of the standard that Jesus set I would feel really happy.

   I dunno, this feels like a rambling pointless post even by my standards. I guess I just wanted to write down how moved I feel by Jesus and Simon and Judas this week.


   The Crossing held our annual tenebrae service this evening as part of Holy Week. I look forward to the tenebrae service so much each year, even though it is perhaps the most somber service on our calendar. In the tenebrae service we focus on the suffering of Jesus during the time leading up to his crucifixion. I find the service to be helpful in focusing my spirit. I’m often full of joy, and I find the occaisonal focus on suffering to be centering.

   I read two of the readings as part of the service, and during the second, in which Peter denies Jesus three times, I found myself almost crying. I was very moved by the entire service.

   Here’s the introduction from this evening’s worship sheet:

   Tenebrae, the Latin word for “shadows” or “darkness,” is the popular name for the ancient monastic offices of Matins and Lauds appointed for each of the last three days of Holy Week. As churches reclaimed the older “Triduum liturgy” (the Sacred Three Days: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil), Tenebrae fell into disuse. 

   The Tenebrae service in its traditional form combines into one service the strongest elements of all three Tenebrae offices and offers an extended meditation on, and a prelude to, the events in our Lord’s life between the Last Supper and the Resurrection. 

   We have retained the somber and reflective mood, themes of suffering and betrayal, and the most profound image associated with the Tenebrae service: the gradual extinguishing of the seven candles until a lone candle remains. In its light, we are left to meditate on Christ’s death and the apparent victory of darkness and evil in our lives.

   You will notice that, even as the candles are snuffed, other images come into sight: images of the continued betrayal within the human family, images of famine and poverty, slavery and war, desolation in the midst of natural disaster. For Christ is alive in our midst, and if we had eyes to see, we would discover him suffering and begging us to stay, to watch and pray with him, not to abandon him once again.

   Let us stay, watch and pray now with Christ …


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