Light amid the Darkness • Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., led the Tenebrae service, which had portions in English and in Latin, and joined by the student choir of Westminster Choir College, Princeton.  Jeff Bruno photos

Light amid the Darkness • Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., led the Tenebrae service, which had portions in English and in Latin, and joined by the student choir of Westminster Choir College, Princeton.  Jeff Bruno photos

As the Paschal Moon came to fullness on the Wednesday night of Holy Week, Bishop David O'Connell, C.M., presided at a Tenebrae Service for the Year of Mercy hosted by St. Catharine Parish, Spring Lake, and sponsored by the diocesan Office of Worship.

To see photo gallery on this story, click here.

Faithful and clergy from throughout the Diocese filled the church to celebrate the service, whose name comes from the Latin word meaning "shadow" and "darkness."

Although the service dates back to the fourth century and had been a common Holy Week devotion, its use faded in recent years. 

"The Diocese wished to bring an opportunity for a different prayer experience to its people," said Christopher Dayton, a diocesan seminarian, who assisted the coordination between the diocese and the parish.

The service weaves the gradual extinguishing of 15 candles placed in the sanctuary with the chanting of psalms and recitation of sacred readings to evoke the fading of light and the emergence of darkness surrounding the Passion and Death of Jesus.

The 90-minute service stirred the soul and the senses as the student choir of Westminster Choir College, Princeton, chanted the psalms under the direction of Peter Carter, organist, who serves in St. John the Baptist Parish, Allentown.

Robert and Karen Tanzola, parishioners of St. Catharine Parish, were among the readers.

With its architectural artistry and acoustics, the church provided a perfect setting for the dramatic service and its climax, total darkness followed by a "great noise," signifying the earthquake after Jesus died.

The prayer service ended with the lighting of the Christ candle, a promise of the Risen Christ.  The congregation filed out in reverent silence.

Father Harold Cullen, pastor of St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish, commented, "We feel honored and privileged to have our Bishop here and the priests and faithful of the Diocese.  St. Catharine's is a fitting and solemn venue for this celebration of darkness looming over the earth in these days before Easter."

Outside, under the full moon, parishioners and guests greeted their bishop while pondering what they had experienced .

This was the first Tenebrae service that many participants attended, but they came out of love for the Church and these holiest of days.

Anthony and Gabriela Privitera, parishioners of St Anthony of Padua, Red Bank, said, "We came here because we've never been to Tenebrae and the bishop was here.  But it was  way to participate in all parts of Holy Week."

"It was wonderful," said Madelyn Curtis, a member of the parish's music ministry. "I wanted to immerse myself in the music of Holy Week.  This refreshed me spiritually and musically for the rest of Holy Week, and I'm happy that the bishop was with us."

Said parishioner Chip Dayton, "It is a great way to start off Holy Week.  It sets the tone for Good Friday and Easter."