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. If your expectation of Christian worship is that it should always be happy and exhilarating, you won’t appreciate this service until the second time you attend it. 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.
Many people who attended said it was the most moving service they had ever been to.
If you see only the happy ending of a movie, everyone who saw it from the start is elated, but you go away saying, “So they were all hugging each other? So what?” But if you see the beginning and the middle part, with all the suspense and grief, you understand what the characters overcame, and the happy ending is all the happier. For some, attending the Easter service without attending the Tenebrae is like watching the happy ending of the movie without seeing the middle—you only rob yourself of joy.