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The Office of Tenebrae (meaning “shadows”) combines elements from the ancient monastic night and early morning services (Matins and Lauds) of the last three days of Holy Week. Each of the “nocturns” indicates a portion of the service that derives from one evening, and consists of psalmody, readings, and short passages from Scripture (responsories). The psalmody is chanted, led by scholas from the Transfiguration choir, honoring the monastic tradition of singing the psalms. One of the most conspicuous features of the service is the gradual extinguishing of candles and other lights in the church until only a single candle, considered a symbol of our Lord, remains. Toward the end of the service this candle is hidden, typifying the apparent victory of the forces of evil. At the very end, a loud noise is made, symbolizing the earthquake at the time of the resurrection (Matthew 28:2), the hidden candle is restored to its place, and by its light all depart in silence.

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