What does “Tenebrae” mean?
The word ‘tenebrae’ is Latin for shadows. The purpose of the Tenebrae service is to recreate the emotional aspects of the passion story, so this is not supposed to be a happy service, because the occasion is not happy.
The core of the Tenebrae service works like this: It starts out with the church in candlelight. Readers go up one at a time, read their assigned selections, and extinguish one of the candles, until only the Christ candle remains. Then someone reads the first part of Psalm 22, which Jesus quoted on the cross. Then the Christ candle is put out, leaving the congregation in near total darkness—and near total devastation. At this point, the service ends. There is no benediction and the people leave in silence. (The lights are turned up but remain dim so that people can see their way out.)
The purpose of the service is to recreate the betrayal, abandonment, and agony of the events, and it is left unfinished, because the story isn’t over until Easter Day.
What Does “Maundy” Mean?
Derived from the Latin word mandatum, meaning “commandment,” Maundy refers to the commands Jesus gave his disciples at the Last Supper: to love with humility by serving one another and to remember his sacrifice.
Maundy Thursday is observed during Holy Week on the Thursday before Easter. Also referred to as “Holy Thursday” or “Great Thursday” in some Christian denominations, Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper when Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples on the night before he was crucified.