The Office of Tenebrae

On Wednesday of Holy Week, St. James Cathedral will observe the Office of Tenebræ. The name Tenebræ (the Latin word for “shadows”) was originally given to the ancient monastic services of matins (celebrated after midnight) and lauds (celebrated at dawn) of the last three days of Holy Week. By the late Middle Ages, these services were consolidated into a single daily celebration on each evening before Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.

Following numerous 20th-century papal reforms, Tenebræ today is celebrated in many different forms, which can include the chanting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, in which each verse is introduced by a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and the gradual extinguishing of candles and other lights in the church to signify the darkness that overshadowed the earth at Christ’s crucifixion. The loud noise, or strepitus, at the conclusion of the service suggests the earthquake described in the Passion narratives. The single candle left burning is the symbol and promise of Christ’s triumph over death and darkness.

The Cathedral Cantorei will sing the “Lamentations of Jeremiah” by Thomas Tallis (c.1505–1585), “Vinea mea electa” by Francis Poulenc (1899–1963), the sublime “Miserere mei, Deus” by Gregorio Allegri (c.1582–1652), and plainchant. Father Michael G. Ryan, presider.

More information at



Apr 05 2023


7:30 pm


St. James Cathedral
St. James Cathedral
804 9th Avenue, Seattle, WA, USA


St. James Cathedral