Wednesday, March 23, 2016


Tenebrae (Latin for "shadows" or "darkness") is a Christian religious service celebrated in the Holy Week within Western Christianity, on the evening before or early morning of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Tenebrae is distinctive for its gradual extinguishing of candles while a series of readings and psalms are chanted or recited.

The Roman rite of Tenebrae was widely observed in the Catholic Church, until liturgical reforms in the second half of the 20th century diminished the practice. Tenebrae liturgy traditions also exist in Anglicanism, Protestantism, and Western Rite Orthodoxy.

In the Roman Catholic Church, "tenebrae" is the name given to the celebration, with special ceremonies, of Matins and Lauds, the first two hours of the Divine Office, of the last three days of Holy Week. The traditions regarding this service go back at least to the ninth century. Originally celebrated after midnight, by the late Middle Ages their celebration was anticipated on the afternoon or evening of the preceding day in most places.

The structure of Tenebrae is the same for all three days. The first part of the service is Matins, which in its pre-1970 form is composed of three nocturns, each consisting of three psalms, a short versicle and response, a silent Pater Noster, and three readings ("lessons"), each followed by a responsory. Pre-1970 Lauds consists of five psalms, a short versicle and response, and the Benedictus Gospel canticle, followed by Christus factus est, a silent Pater Noster, a devotional recitation of Psalm 50 (51), Miserere (suppressed in the 1955 revisions of Pope Pius XII), and the appointed collect. Unlike the rest of the year, Matins begins immediately with the first antiphon, without the "Domine, labia aperies" followed by recitation of Psalm 94 (95). As with the other offices of Passiontide, the Gloria Patri is at all times suppressed.

The principal Tenebrae ceremony is the gradual extinguishing of candles upon a stand in the sanctuary called a hearse. Eventually, the Roman Rite settled on fifteen candles, one of which is extinguished after each of the nine psalms of Matins and the five of Lauds, gradually reducing the lighting throughout the service. The six altar candles are put out during the Benedictus, and then any remaining lights in the church. The last candle is hidden beneath the altar, ending the service in total darkness. The strepitus (Latin for "great noise"), made by slamming a book shut, banging a hymnal or breviary against the pew, or stomping on the floor, symbolizes the earthquake that followed Christ's death, although it may have originated as a simple signal to depart. After the candle has been shown to the people, it is extinguished, and then put "on the credence table," or simply taken to the sacristy. All rise and then leave in silence.

Some Protestant denominations retained elements of the Roman Tenebrae liturgy, or added others. The name "tenebrae" can be given to various Holy Week services held by Protestant churches including the Lutheran, United Methodist, United Church of Christ and Presbyterian churches. Some liturgical Baptist congregations also hold Tenebrae Services. Variations of Tenebrae are sometimes celebrated in less formal or non-denominational churches as well. Some churches of the Anglican Communion celebrate Tenebrae with the same rite as Roman Catholics. Anglicans, including the American Episcopal Church, usually observe the service on Wednesday in Holy Week, thereby preserving the importance of the Maundy Thursday and Good Friday observances. The Episcopal Church provides a single Tenebrae service on Wednesday evening, the day before Maundy Thursday. That service reduces the total number of Tenebrae lessons, each followed by a responsory, to nine.

His Princess Every Day - Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Devotionals for Women - Inspirational author and speaker Sheri Rose Shepherd imagines what a letter written from God to you would look like.


My Princess,

I know there will be times you feel as if there is no fight left inside of you. I will rescue my girl in your moments of weakness and you will feel my spirit rise up inside your soul. I will put a new passion in your heart to win any battle. In my power you will find the strength to face every spiritual giant. It is time, my daughter, to get dressed for battle and fight for your friends and family who are to weak to fight for themselves. Now, clothe yourself in my truth by reading my word and put on every piece of my armor by praying and obeying. You may be young, but you are mighty with me on your side--so step out in faith and take your appointed position in life!

Your King Who fights for you

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness and the Spirit, which is the word of God. - Ephesians 6:13-14 (NIV)

This devotional is written by Sheri Rose Shepherd. All content copyright Sheri Rose Shepherd 2015. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Spy Wednesday

In Christianity, Holy Wednesday or Spy Wednesday, also called Holy and Great Wednesday in the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches, is the Wednesday of Holy Week, the week before Easter. It is followed by Maundy Thursday.

In the New Testament, just after Palm Sunday, the Sanhedrin gathered together and plotted to kill Jesus, even before the feast of Pesach. On the Wednesday before his death Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the Leper. As they sat at the supper table, a woman named Mary anointed Jesus' head and feet with costly oil of spikenard. The disciples were indignant, asking why the oil was not instead sold and the money given to the poor. But Judas Iscariot wanted to keep the money for himself. Then Judas went to the Sanhedrin and offered to deliver Jesus to them in exchange for money. From this moment on, Judas sought an opportunity to betray Jesus.

In reference to Judas Iscariot's intent to betray Jesus, formed on Holy Wednesday, the day is sometimes called "Spy Wednesday". (The word spy, in obsolete usage, could mean "ambush, ambuscade, snare".)

Although it is frequently celebrated on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday, the Tenebrae is a liturgy that is often celebrated on this day. The word tenebrae comes from the Latin meaning darkness. In this service, all of the candles on the altar table are gradually extinguished until the sanctuary is in complete darkness. At the moment of darkness, a loud clash occurs symbolizing the death of Jesus. The 'strepitus', as it is known more probably symbolizes the earthquake that followed Jesus' death: "And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent" Matthew 27:51(AV).

In the Orthodox Church, the theme of Holy and Great Wednesday is the commemoration of the sinful woman who anointed Jesus before his Crucifixion and Burial; a second theme is the agreement to betray Jesus made by Judas Iscariot.

The day begins with the celebration of the Presanctified Liturgy on Tuesday afternoon. Later that evening (in parish practice) or early the following morning, the matins follows the special Holy Week format known as the Bridegroom Service. Towards the end of matins, the Hymn of Kassiani is sung. The hymn, (written in the 9th century by Kassia) tells of the woman who washed Christ's feet in the house of Simon the Leper. (Luke 7:36-50) Much of the hymn is written from the perspective of the sinful woman:

O Lord, the woman who had fallen into many sins, sensing Your Divinity, takes upon herself the duty of a myrrh-bearer. With lamentations she brings you myrrh in anticipation of your entombment. "Woe to me!" she cries, "for me night has become a frenzy of licentiousness, a dark and moonless love of sin. Receive the fountain of my tears, O You who gather into clouds the waters of the sea. Incline unto me, unto the sighings of my heart, O You who bowed the heavens by your ineffable condescension. I will wash your immaculate feet with kisses and dry them again with the tresses of my hair; those very feet at whose sound Eve hid herself in fear when she heard You walking in Paradise in the twilight of the day. As for the multitude of my sins and the depths of Your judgments, who can search them out, O Savior of souls, my Savior? Do not disdain me Your handmaiden, O You who are boundless in mercy."

The Byzantine musical composition expresses the poetry so strongly that it often leaves many people in a state of prayerful tears. The Hymn can last upwards of 25 minutes and is liturgically and musically a highpoint of the entire year.

In Greece (and some other places the custom has spread to) all members of the church receive Holy Unction on Wednesday evening.

It is on account of the agreement made by Judas to betray Jesus on this day that Orthodox Christians fast on Wednesdays (as well as Fridays) throughout the year.

Gregory the Illuminator, Bishop and Missionary of Armenia

Today the church remembers Gregory the Illuminator, Bishop and Missionary of Armenia, c. 332.

Armenia, the first Christian kingdom in history, was converted through the efforts of Gregory. This kingdom came to an unhappy end as an independent state in 430, yet some two and one-half million persons today are still culturally Armenians. They enjoy a racial, linguistic, and religious heritage which is one of the world's oldest and richest. Their community has endured fifteen hundred years of dispersion, harassment, and often severe persecution.

The truly marvelous story of Christian Armenia began when the infant Gregory, who was a prince by birth, was exiled by enemies and reared by a compassionate Christian family in Cappadocia (modern central Turkey). As an adult and a Christian he returned to Armenia and converted the king, Tiridates, heir of Gregory's old enemies. This was not done easily. Indeed, many legends have grown up around the tradition of Gregory's great difficulties, hardships, and sufferings in effecting the conversion of the king and subsequently the kingdom. For this work he is called the "Illuminator." Gregory was eventually consecrated Bishop of Echmiadzin and was the organizer of the Armenian Church.

We thank you, O God, for the witness of Gregory the Illuminator and for the people of Armenia. Amen.

Almighty God, whose will it is to be glorified in all your saints, and who raised up your servant Gregory the Illuminator to be a light in the world, and to preach the Gospel to the people of Armenia: Shine, we pray, in our hearts, that we also in our generation may show forth your praise, who called us out of darkness into your marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Daily Readings for March 23, 2016 - Wednesday in Holy Week

Isaiah 50:4-9
The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens-- wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward. I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard; I did not hide my face from insult and spitting. The Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord GOD who helps me; who will declare me guilty? All of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up.

Psalm 70 Deus, in adjutorium (God help)
1   Be pleased, O God, to deliver me; O LORD, make haste to help me.
2   Let those who seek my life be ashamed and altogether dismayed; let those who take pleasure in my misfortune draw back and be disgraced.
3   Let those who say to me "Aha!" and gloat over me turn back, because they are ashamed.
4   Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let those who love your salvation say for ever, "Great is the LORD!"
5   But as for me, I am poor and needy; come to me speedily, O God.
6   You are my helper and my deliverer; O LORD, do not tarry.

Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.

John 13:21-32
After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, "Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples-- the one whom Jesus loved-- was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "Do quickly what you are going to do." Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we need for the festival" or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.

Daily Meditation for March 23, 2016 - Wednesday in Holy Week

From Forward Day by Day

John 13:21 Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

As Holy Week unfolds, events seem to spin out of control. The authorities thirst for blood. Jesus’ followers don’t seem to understand who he is or what they are to do. And even his friends betray him.

This day is sometimes called Spy Wednesday because it is the day when Judas sneakily betrays Jesus. It would be convenient for us to cast Judas as the story’s villain and move on. But it’s more complicated. For one thing, it was Judas’s betrayal that led to Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, death, and resurrection. Some theologians have said Judas is an instrumental part of our salvation.

There’s an even more compelling and personal realization though. You see, Judas isn’t the only one who betrayed Jesus. I have betrayed him, and so have you. Jesus said the way we treat the “least of these” is how we treat him. I know I have ignored Jesus in the person of those who need my help. I have turned my back on Jesus. The events around our betrayals are probably less dramatic, but they are just as real as Peter’s.

Christ, have mercy on us.

Verse of the Day - March 23, 2016

James 1:12 (NIV) Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.