Maundy Thursday today
Tenebrae services will be held at Protestant churches around the world tonight on Maundy Thursday.
“‘Maundy’ comes from the Latin word, ‘mandafum,’ which means mandate,” said the Rev. Michael Lawler, pastor of Brundidge United Methodist Church. ‘“Do this in remembrance of me’ was a mandate or commandment of Jesus as He and his disciples were eating the final meal before he was arrested. On Maundy Thursday, we commemorate the supper Jesus shared with his disciples before he was crucified. This was the institution of the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.”
The word “tenebrae” is Latin for darkness or shadows and the purpose of the Tenebrae Service is to recreate the emotional aspects of the passion story. However, Lawler said those who attend Tenebrae will experience only a very small portion of Christ’s pain and suffering the day of His crucifixion.
“Following the Lord’s Supper, we will follow the ancient custom of stripping the Lord’s Table as a vivid and dramatic way of showing the desolation and abandonment of Gethsemane and what followed,” Lawler said.
The stripping of the altar involves the removal of any decorative elements, such as cloths on the altar or devotional objects. Immovable objects are covered by plain cloths or hidden is some manner.
One of the most the most conspicuous features of the Tenebrae Service is the gradual extinguishing of lights and candles until only a single candle, considered a symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ remains.
“As it gets darker, we can reflect on the great emotional and physical pain that was very real for Jesus on that evening,” Lawler said.
Toward the end of the service, the Christ candle is hidden, typifying the apparent victory of the forces of evil over good. At the end of the service, a loud noise is made, symbolizing the earthquake at the time of Jesus’ death and his resurrection.
The hidden candle is then restored to its place, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. The congregation leaves the sanctuary in reverent silence.
“The sanctuary will remain bare until the Easter service when the Light of the World returns in the form of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior,” Lawler said.
Lawler said through the Tenebrae Service and the impending suffering and death of Christ, one is able to better experience the full triumph of Easter when the stone was rolled away and Jesus arose from the tomb.
“That’s the beauty of Easter morning — Jesus’ victory over death and His promise of eternal life to all who will follow Him,” Lawler said.