Festival of Shadows

This traditional service happens on Maundy Thursday. It represents the story of Christ moving toward the cross. There is a rich symbolism of moving from light to darkness, and yet the light cannot be extinguished in Christ.  It involves a couple simple supplies for you to gather to be able to walk through it by yourself or with family.

  • 7 Candles
  • Your Bible
  • Communion Supplies

During this time, you will be walking through the events leading Jesus to the cross.  After each reading, you blow out a candle. As lights are extinguished, we think about the depth of Christ’s suffering and death; and yet as his single flame remains at the end we are filled with a somber joy knowing he will return.

DO NOT blow out the last candle, the Christ candle.  The final one leaves the room for three minutes so you can engage in prayer and contemplation (the 3-minutes represent the days Christ was in the grave). After that, you walk the candle back in remembering that Christ, The Light of The World, will never be extinguished.

Enjoy this Maundy Thursday Self-Guided Tenebrae. 

The Shadow of Betrayal
Reading Matthew 26:20-25
(Blow out candle #1)


Reading Matthew 26:17-30

Right after the shadow of betrayal, Christ gives us the gift and promise of how to remember him even though our own betrayal is so very near in the shadows.

We walk into the rest of the story knowing that Jesus gave us this gift of remembrance; knowing we would betray him. There are two meaningful things to hold in tension as you read this passage.

  • That Jesus is foreshadowing what will happen to his body and blood the next day.
  • It makes his broken body and shed blood more meaningful that this was Jesus' conscious choice. It was his choice knowing what lurked in all of our own shadows, just like Judas.

(Share the communion elements. Remember the meaning is what is important not what you use to take communion)

*As you pass the elements take the bread and say, “This is Jesus body, broken for you!” Also, take the juice and say, “This is Jesus blood shed for you!”

The Shadow of the Agony of Spirit and Arrest
Reading Matthew 26:36-50
(Blow out candle #2)

The Shadow of Denial
Reading Matthew 26:69-75

(Blow out candle #3)

The Shadow of Accusation
Reading Matthew 27:11-14, 20-29
(Blow out candle #4)

The Shadow of Crucifixion and Humiliation
Reading Matthew 27:31-43
(Blow out candle #5)

The Shadow of Death
Reading Matthew 27:45-54
(Blow out candle #6)

The Shadow of Burial
Reading Matthew 27:57-60
(Have someone walk the last candle, the Christ candle, out of the room and leave it there, but do not blow it out. Once they have returned without the candle, begin silent meditation and prayer - 3 Minutes)

The Christ Candle is returned.

After the three minutes of meditation and prayer, have someone bring the candle back into the room. 

Let the light remind you that not even the grave can extinguish the light of the world, which is Jesus Christ.



Take some time sharing either in prayer with Jesus or with your family around the table these thoughts and questions.

  • What things in your own shadows need the light of Christ?
  • How can you shine the light of Christ more brightly in this world and current situation we are all in?
  • Can you name three people who need the light of Christ that you can be praying for, and if possible reach out to encourage?