I just finished the Good Friday Tenebrae service. The Tenebrae, or Service of Shadows, has always been a very meaningful service for me. It is a very somber service, as is fitting on Good Friday. A reader reads a passage of Scripture associated with the betrayal, crucifixion, or burial of Jesus, and then blows out one of the candles that provides light for the service. As the readings progress further into the Passion story, the room grows progressively darker. At the end, the final candle is extinguished, and the congregation is to depart in silence.
Tonight, just as we blew out the last candle, the “incoming” alarm went off. We had to wait until the “all clear” sounded before we could leave the chapel.
I am always surprised at how dark this place is. There are no external lights, and if there is no moon, it can be remarkably dark. Before the base engineers spread it out, there was a very large pile of gravel near my trailer. One night, I walked out, and started trudging up something that I couldn’t see. After a moment, I realized that I must be on that pile of gravel, but still couldn’t see it. I’m sure that it is kept dark for two reasons. First, it minimizes the possibility of sniper attacks. Second, all the electricity is produced by generators, and lighting a camp this size by generator would be enormously costly.
I cannot help but think that the darkness is somehow fitting on this Good Friday. The darkness is an indicator of a greater spiritual darkness. It’s tempting for Christians to associate this spiritual darkness solely with Islam, but that would be a mistake. The greater spiritual darkness is a result of war. I have seen firsthand the spiritual, psychological, and emotional effect that killing a fellow human being has on those who must do so. Many of them will experience darkness in ways that we can never imagine.
Pray for peace.