Tenebrae means "shadows" or "darkness." Many Christian traditions still include a Tenebrae service at the close of the Holy Thursday, or, more properly, at Matins
(shortly after midnight). It is a time of mourning, lamentation--a sorrowful inward examination of our own failures, a lament for the suffering of Christ. Since the 5th century churches have extinguished the candles during Tenebrae--a gesture rich symbol: Jesus is the Light of the world, but where the Light is betrayed, darkness overtakes us.
* * *
In the gospels it is during the Last Supper that Judas departs on his errand of betrayal. It was not a sudden decision. Weeks before this passage for Holy Thursday, Judas' heart was growing cold. At the discourse on the Bread of Life (John 6:70) Jesus indicates that one of the twelve has already turned against him. The betrayal is completed on the night that Christ again teaches them that He is the Bread of Life. One can have some sympathy--perhaps--for Judas; he had hoped for a military king who'd kick out the Roman oppressors. But what profit is there in any new king/ military coup if one's own heart remains corrupt; flaccid hearts incapable of sacrificial love? Would /could society be any different unless we ourselves are changed?