Thomas McKenzie
by grace alone
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Holy Darkness


On March 27th, Church of the Redeemer presents Tenebrae.  This event of Holy Darkness begins at 7:00 p.m. at the Belcourt Theatre in Hillsboro Village.  Admission is free and seating is limited.  

We welcome the entire community and people of all faiths and backgrounds to join us for Tenebrae.  We hope that all of our members who comes will invite a friend.

Tenebrae is a Latin word meaning "shadows" or "darkness.”  It’s based on an ancient liturgy of the Benedictine monasteries of Europe. The traditional service walks through the last week in Christ's life through psalms, lessons, prayers, and gathering darkness. It centers around a gathering of fifteen candles which are snuffed out, one by one, as the service goes on. The increasing physical darkness symbolizes Jesus' life ebbing away.

Redeemer’s Tenebrae follows the same basic outline of the traditional one. It refers to the pattern of psalms and teachings.  We still douse lights in the same order, while bringing one back at the end to symbolize the Resurrection. However, this Tenebrae is a multi-media event of live music, images, dark comedy, film, recorded music, and still photography.

Here is what I love about this event: unlike most everything else we do, it’s non-narrative and sometimes non-verbal. It’s an intuitive journey into the storm of hope and rejection that is Holy Week. Most everyone will find something difficult in it, most everyone will find something moving in it. I can imagine people from a wide variety of backgrounds having a good yet possibly troubling experience.  It’s much more of a work of art than a church service.

I expect everyone who comes will get something out of it. I hope that people will leave their kids at home, as the themes are heavy and there are moments of PG-13 language and images.   It’s a powerful liturgy, and has become one of my favorite hours of the year.  I hope you can come.