We are a small Episcopal Church on the banks of the Rappahannock in Port Royal, Virginia. We acknowledge that we gather on the traditional land of the first people of Port Royal, the Nandtaughtacund, and we respect and honor with gratitude the land itself, the legacy of the ancestors, and the life of the Rappahannock Tribe. Our mission statement is to do God’s Will in all that we do.

Digging into Tenebrae, Holy Week

This article is based on St. Peter’s Tenebrae service which is here. It is taken from the Episcopal Book of Occasional Services. Tenebrae is an ancient service the goes back to the medieval service (9th century).

Tenebrae is divided into 3 nocturns or sections and 9 lessons within them. Antiphons are excerpts from psalms said before the lesson.  Responsory are responses said after a lesson.

The first part of the service is set at Matins, night time, originally celebrated a few hours after midnight. Then there is Lauds, originally celebrated at dawn. They were anticipated by the late Middle Ages on the afternoon or evening of the preceding day, and were given the name “Tenebrae” because concluding when darkness was setting in. During the 3rd nocturn there is a heading for Lauds, early morning before sunrise

The three nocturns are taken from the following sources:

  • Christ as the one who weeps over Jerusalem (from The Lamentations of Jeremiah).
  • The hoped-for fulfillment of the psalmist (attributed to St. Augustine).
  • The true sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17).
  • The true and eternal High Priest (as described in the Letter to the Hebrews).

First Nocturn (readings from the Lamentations of Jeremiah)

In the Tenebrae service, these passages evoke a sense of darkness, abandonment, but also hope amidst suffering. They invite reflection on our own struggles and the enduring faith that sustains us.

In this nocturn, Christ is portrayed as the compassionate one who weeps over Jerusalem. The imagery draws from the book of Jeremiah, emphasizing Christ’s sorrow and love for humanity. The Lamentations of Jeremiah poignantly express grief and lamentation, underscoring the weight of sin and the need for redemption

Psalm 69:1-23

Psalm 70

Psalm 74

Lesson 1,2, 3 Lamentations 1:1-14

Second Nocturn (readings from Saint Augustine’s Commentaries on the Psalms)

In the Tenebrae service, these scriptures guide believers through the darkness of Good Friday, reminding us of Christ’s suffering, His triumph over darkness, and the hope of resurrection on Easter.

St. Augustine’s writings inspire hope and anticipation. Christ is seen as the fulfillment of ancient prophecies—the long-awaited Messiah who brings salvation.

The psalmist’s yearning finds its ultimate answer in Christ’s sacrificial love, which transcends time and space

Psalm 2, BCP 586

Psalm 22:1-21, BCP 610

Psalm 27, BCP 617

Lesson 4, Lesson 5, Lesson 6 –A reading from the Treatise of Saint Augustine the Bishop on the Psalms.

Third Nocturn (readings from New Testament epistles)

There continues to be darkness – deep despair and abandonment echoing Christ’s cry from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and his submission to God’s will. Other passages celebrate victory. Even in the darkest moments, God’s ultimate triumph is assured. Passages speak of our mortality and the hope of Christ’s resurrection. From Hebrews, Jesus acts as our compassionate High Priest who understands our weaknesses and our need for redemption and acts as the mediator between God and humanity.

Psalm 54, BCP 659

Psalm 76, BCP 692

Psalm 88, BCP 712

Lesson 7, Lesson 8, Lesson 9 –The Letter to the Hebrews. [4:15-5:10, 9:11-15a]

Lauds – Early morning 

Psalm 63:1-8, BCP 670

Psalm 90:1-12,  BCP 717

Psalm 143, BCP 798

The Song of Hezekiah  [Isaiah 38:10-20]

Psalm 150, BCP 807

Canticle 16:  Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel, BCP 92

Psalm 51, BCP 656