The seminarians of St. John Vianney Theological Seminary will host Tenebrae this year on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Collins will also host a service.
“Tenebrae in Latin means darkened. The very name of it, and the way we celebrate it, is supposed to call to mind almost complete darkness,” said seminarian Adam Bradshaw. “It’s very somber and mournful and helps us get into the somber spirit of the Triduum.”
Tenebrae, which developed in the Middle Ages, incorporates the first two sets of prayers from the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayers said by all clergy and religious every day.
Bradshaw explained that the entire motif is supposed to help participants enter into Christ’s Passion. The service begins before sunrise, with only the light of candles.
“On the altar there’s a big candelabra. On that candelabra there are 15 candles that are lit. As we go through the readings, one by one those candles are extinguished,” Bradshaw said.
When only one candle is left, the youngest member of the seminary will process with the lit candle around the sacristy, disappearing for a moment before he appears on the other side. While the light is gone, everyone participating hits the pews and makes a noise to symbolize the earthquake that happened right after Christ’s death.
“The light is supposed to represent Christ and the resurrection. As he’s walking around, we make tons of noise, symbolizing the earthquake. He comes back and put the candle back. It’s supposed to symbolize that despite all the darkness, Christ comes back for us,” Bradshaw said.
The event has been enormously popular over the years, with families even bringing their small children and leaving standing room only.
Bradshaw said coming to Tenebrae can help the faithful enter into the days between the end of Lent and Easter.
“When we pray during those days, we make more of an intentional effort to enter into these most sacred events,” Bradshaw said.
Tenebrae will take place at 5:30 a.m. March 24, 25, and 26 in the Christ the King Chapel at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and St. John XXIII Parish in Fort Collins at 6 a.m. Guests at the seminary are asked to park in visitor parking at the John Paul II Center and walk over to the chapel.