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A Service of Tenebrae - Maundy Thursday/Good Friday - Luke 22, Mark 15

The purpose of this Maundy Thursday or Good Friday service is to reflect deeply on the sufferings and death of Christ for us and our salvation, and then commemorates the death of Christ at the Lord's Table.

Theme of the Service

Because this is Holy Week, the purpose of this service of worship is to reflect deeply on the sufferings and death of Christ for us and our salvation, and then to commemorate the death of Christ at the Lord's Table. This service is designed for use on either Maundy Thursday or Good Friday.

Maundy Thursday

In the forthcoming Worship Sourcebook, the following information is given about Maundy Thursday: "On Maundy Thursday the church remembers the last evening Jesus shared with his disciples in the upper room before his arrest and crucifixion. Maundy Thursday marks three key events in Jesus' last week: his washing of his disciples' feet, his institution of the Lord's Supper, and his new commandment to love one another. This service begins the Triduum, the three-day period from sunset on Thursday to sunset on Easter Day. The name 'Maundy Thursday' comes from the Latin mandatum novum, referring to the 'new commandment' Jesus taught his disciples (John 13:34). In other words, this is 'new commandment Thursday.' In some churches a Maundy Thursday service is the primary or even only midweek service during Holy Week. In this case, the service needs to call attention both to the events in the upper room and to the events of Good Friday."

Good Friday

Of this event, the Worship Sourcebook says, "Good Friday marks the death of Jesus Christ. It's called 'good' because of what Jesus' death means for the redemption of the world. Worship on this day may focus on three aims: (1) to narrate and remember the events of Jesus' death, (2) to open up the meaning of these events for our understanding of God and the redemption accomplished by the cross, and (3) to invite worshipers to renewed prayer and dedication. The historical remembrance is often best accomplished through a dramatic reading of the gospel account of Jesus' passion. Many Good Friday services are somber because of this historical remembrance. Some Christian traditions also mark Good Friday with a celebration of the Lord's Supper, focusing on how the supper 'proclaims the Lord's death until he comes.' In other traditions Good Friday is the one day of the year on which the Lord's Supper is not celebrated."

Note: Because of the nature of the tenebrae service, you may wish to print a note such as the following at the beginning of your order of service: Please enter humbly, worship deeply, and leave quietly this evening with your heart centered on the suffering of Christ for you and your salvation. You will observe a diminishing of light through the service in the pattern of tenebrae worship. Tenebrae means shadows, and so our worship will include an experience of some of the shadows that Christ endured. At the close of the service the bell will toll seven times to represent the fullness of Christ's sacrifice for us.


Prelude: "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded," Burkhardt
"Passacaglia on the Passion Chorale," Haan

Processional Anthem: "Christ, We Do All Adore Thee," Du Bois

*God's Greeting and Congregational Amen!

*Song: "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded" PH 98, PsH 383, RN 235, RL 300, TH 247, TWC 221

Offertory Prayer

Offertory: "Holy Darkness", Schutte, arr. Harrold


The Shadow of Prediction

The Reading of John 13:31-38
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Response: "Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended" PH 93, PsH 386, RL 285, RN 183, TH 248, TWC 231

The Shadow of the Agony of Spirit

The Reading of Mark 14:32-42
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!


Response: "Go To Dark Gethsemane" PH 97, PsH 381, TWC 225

The Shadow of Denial

The Reading of Matthew 26:69-75
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

A Reading: "The Courtyard Scene," Ann Weems (see Liturgy Notes)

Response: "Lord, Have Mercy Upon Us" PsH 258

The Shadow of Crucifixion

The Reading of Mark 15:22-32
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Anthem of Response: "Heavy," Nagy

The Shadow Forsakenness

The Reading of Mark 15:33-36
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!



The Shadow of Death

The Reading of Matthew 27:45-54
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

The Christ Candle Is Removed

Solo: "Were You There"

The Christ Candle Is Restored

Our Profession of Faith: The Apostles' Creed

Anthem: "Jesus Paid It All," Sterling
or Congregational song: "I Love the Lord" SNC 227


The Welcome

The Words of Institution: Matthew 26:26-29

The Prayer of Approach (concluded with the Lord's Prayer in unison)

We Receive the Bread and the Cup

Music for Meditation: "Were You There," McChesney

A Reading of Isaiah 40:1-5

Song: "Were You There" (st. 1-2) PH 102, PsH 377, RL 293, RN 236, SFL 167, TH 260, TWC 218

A Reading of Isaiah 53:3-6

Music for Meditation: "Beneath the Cross of Jesus," Cherwien

Song: "Beneath the Cross of Jesus" (st. 1-3) PH 92, RL 310, TH 259, TWC 216

A Reading of Philippians 3:7-11

Music for Meditation: "What Wondrous Love," Larson

Song: "What Wondrous Love" PH 85, PsH 379, RN 277, SFL 169, TH 261, TWC 212

A Reading of John 1:1-5, 14

Music for Meditation: "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," Burkhardt

Song: "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" (st. 1-4) PH 101, PsH 384, RL 293, RN 236, SFL 166, TH 252, TWC 213

The Prayer of Thanksgiving


The Tolling of the Bell

*Song: "The Lord's Prayer," Mallotte

*The Benediction and Congregational Amen!

The Postlude: "The Strife Is O'er," Zabel

* you are invited to stand

Please leave this time of worship in quiet reflection on the suffering and death of our Savior. Plan to return on Easter morning for our celebration of the resurrection of Christ!

Sermon Notes:

In this worship service of deep reflection, most of the communication comes directly from the Word of God as it leads us in the narration of Christ's closing hours. The multiple readings with our responses are intended to create an awareness within the worshiper's heart and spirit that "we are there!"

The sermon, therefore, will not be a prominent part of the service. We suggest that two relatively brief messages be included.

The first is included in "The Shadow of the Agony of Spirit" and should enable us to identify with Christ when he struggles with the need to "drink the cup" and finds himself "overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death" (Mark 14:34, NIV). In this agony we see his commitment to provide the atonement for our sins, but we also see the deep agony that it brought him. Not until we see the depths of this agony, which will increase even more in the hours ahead, do we understand how wondrous his love for us is.

The second message is included in "The Shadow of Forsakenness." While Jesus' words "why have you forsaken me" are impossible for any human to fully comprehend, we stand at the edge of this horrid experience and try to grasp the ultimate price that has been paid for our salvation. How God can be forsaken of God no heart can fathom, yet we know that it was in this time of forsakenness that the ultimate price was paid—for now we know that we shall never be forsaken by God!

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church, Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Music Level Key: E = Easy, M = Medium, D = Difficult

  1. The music of this service must aid the worshiper in thinking of and responding deeply to the sacrifice of Christ. The pace of the service should reflect the desire to be thought-filled. In light of these considerations, incorporate some instrumental music that is hymn-based to engage the worshiper's devotion. Plan to spend time in preparing introductions and registrations or instrumentations for the hymns that will reflect well the pathos embodied in the texts. Let your accompaniments bring the texts to life—don't just play the notes!
  2. The prelude suggestions are both settings of the hymn tune HERZLICH TUT MICH VERLANGEN, and both are organ settings. The Michael Burkhardt arrangement can be found in "Five Lenten Hymn Improvisations," published by Morningstar MSM-10-309 [1990] (E). The hymn melody could easily be played by an instrumentalist. "Passacaglia on the Passion Chorale" by Raymond H. Haan is published by SMP SM59 [1986] (M-D).
  3. The processional music is the closing chorus from "The Seven Last Words" by Theodore Dubois and is published separately by Fort Vance Publications. The final two measures can serve as a frame to the body of this piece. Have the basses sing their final two measures and then add the tenors, altos, and sopranos consecutively before singing the chorale. At the conclusion of the chorale, repeat the final two measures while subtracting voice parts so that the bass line sung alone concludes the processional.
  4. "Holy Darkness" by Daniel Schutte, arranged by Bob Harrold, can be sung by choir and congregation during the offertory. This SATB anthem published by OCP 9906 [1993] (E-M) can serve as a bridge from the opening of worship to the tenebrae portion of the service.
  5. The acapella SATB anthem "Heavy" by Russell Nagy is published by High Street JH552 [1994] (E-M) and is composed in the style of an African-American spiritual. It also includes a baritone solo.
  6. The SATB (mostly) anthem "Jesus Paid It All," arranged by Robert Sterling on the traditional gospel hymn tune, is published by Glory Sound A6223 [1985] (M). The alternative congregational response is an African-American spiritual based on Psalm 116:1-2.
  7. The length of music for meditation, songs, and readings during communion reflects the amount of time it took for the congregation we served to approach the table. You may well need to adjust the amount of material in this section on the basis of the size of your congregation. We did, however, find it very meaningful to include the pattern of a time for meditation, a time of singing, and a reading. While you might not have the same resources we worked with, you will notice enough familiarity in the hymns selected that you may already have your own resources based on these tunes. You will notice that we incorporated cycles of this pattern. The music of this section can be found in the following sources:
    - "Were You There" by Kevin McChesney for 3-5 octaves handbells, published by Lorenz HB-363 [1991] (E-M).
    - An alternative harmonization for the singing of "Were You There" can be found in "Hymn Harmonizations for Organ" bk. 3 published by Ludwig O-10 [1986].
    - The setting of "Beneath the Cross of Jesus" by David Cherwien can be found in "Lamb of God," published by Morningstar MSM-10-320 [1989 (E-M). The hymn melody can easily be played by an instrumentalist.
    - "What Wondrous Love" by Lloyd Larson is an anthem for 3-5 octaves handbells published by Beckenhorst HB150 [1994] (E-M).
    - The setting of "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" by Michael Burkhardt can be found in "Five Lenten Hymn Improvisations" published by Morningstar MSM-10-309 [1990] (E-M). Again, the melody can be played by an instrumentalist.
  8. "The Lord's Prayer" by Albert Malotte is published as a choral anthem by Schirmer 9762 [1948]. When used congregationally, omit the interludes and craft both a choral (4-part) introduction and accompaniment from the anthem.
  9. The postlude on "The Strife Is O'er" is a very reflective handbell anthem for 3-5 octaves by Albert Zabel, published by Augsburg Fortress 11-10989 [1999].

Liturgy Notes:

  1. Consult the explanation at the beginning of this service about the nature of a tenebrae service. The sanctuary begins in subdued lighting, and at the Scripture readings within each of the "shadows" the lighting is reduced a little more. (Some congregations also symbolically extinguish candles representing each shadow.) Finally, at the Shadow of Death, the sanctuary is totally darkened. In this darkness (and silence) the Christ Candle is removed when a worship leader carries it down the aisle so all are able to see it leaving. A soloist sings "Were You There" in the dark. As the Christ Candle returns and the worshipers profess their faith with the Apostles' Creed the lighting is restored in the sanctuary. Thus, the Lord's Supper is commemorated in a lit sanctuary.
  2. We suggest that two or three lay persons be the Scripture readers for the passages in this service. They should be well prepared—both in their own spirits and in their familiarity with the passage to be read. Use a separate reader for the Ann Weems' selection; this reader should be able to present the reading dramatically and with excellent interpretation.
  3. The striking poem by Ann Weems can be found in her anthology "Kneeling in Jerusalem."
  4. Worshipers are invited to come forward to the Lord's Table to receive the bread and the cup and be greeted by those who are officiating. The music and readings are designed to create a setting in which all communicants can readily center their thoughts on the mission of the Savior for their salvation. We have found it very helpful to print the songs to be used during the communion service. If your congregation requires less time to come forward to be served, you will want to alter the number of items included.
  5. At the close of the service the bell tolls seven times, slowly and deliberately, to mark the fullness of the sufferings of Christ.