Service of Light and Shadows for Holy Week

Here is the service that Alison, Peter and Gemma would have done, had everything been normal!!  It has quite a lot of meditative thoughts in it – thoughts of others who often are not necessarily central stage in the Passion Narrative.
There will be a meditation for Maundy Thursday to follow for Thursday.


Have a slice of bread, a glass of wine or juice, and a bowl of water, ready for our final prayer.

The Greeting          

We meet in the name of Christ, who died and rose again for us.

The Lord be with you

All:      And, also with you.

Welcome and introduction

This year there is much darkness and shadow in our lives.  But we Christians know that God’s Light cannot be extinguished.  If you are reading this at home, light seven night-lights and put them out at the appropriate time, because nothing can keep us from the light of Christ.

God is light, in whom there is no shadow at night

All:      Jesus Christ is the light of the world.

And this is the judgement,

That the light came into the world

All:      but we loved darkness rather than light.

On this night we gather to remember

All:      We open our hearts and minds to relive the pain and victory

            Which have become for us the doorway to eternal life.

We recognise the shadows which surround our lives at present.

We meditate on this moment in history when the shadows seemed to extinguish the light completely.

All:      we come in awe and worship, for the darkness has never, and will never, overcome the light revealed in the human life and death of Jesus .

And so, let us recall the last meal that Jesus shared with his friends.

(Please note the bread and wine in this service are not consecrated)

On the night of his agony and arrest, the followers of Jesus gathered with him around the table.  As they were eating, he took a loaf of bread and broke it.  He said to them, “This is my body, broken for you.  Take and eat this in memory of me”.

All:      And so, we do this, now and always, in grateful and loving memory of the one who gave himself for us.

Monologue:  the Shadow of Betrayal

Judas  (Matt 26:20-25)

I admired Jesus.  I was pleased, proud to be one of his closest disciples, to be called his friend, to be trusted, to be one of the inner circle.   I could see that he was wise, was powerful, he could go far, do much. I was right and yet so wrong. Looking back, I realise now that I misunderstood so much.

To begin with, everything was fantastic. Inspiring teaching, brilliant rhetoric – wish you could have heard the way he tied the Teachers of the Law in knots with their own words.  It was nothing short of brilliant.  He had a massive following, and, with a following like that, we could have won.

That is where he went “wrong”.   Jesus did not take his opportunity when it was there.

It pains me that I have been remembered as the one that betrayed Jesus. It makes me sound disloyal.   I know that you consider me a traitor, but that was not what I intended. Please believe me.  I was one hundred percent loyal.  I wanted to see Jesus succeed. Honestly.

He was going to miss his opportunity, and I was trying to help.  I thought if the soldiers knew where he was, they would come, there would be a showdown, and Jesus would emerge triumphant, job done.

But Jesus didn’t fight.   He just went, meek and obedient as a lamb. Why? Then it all went wrong, so wrong.

I was wrong, so wrong. But I wanted the best for him, please believe me.


Woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!

All:      It would be better for that one not to have been born.    Matt 26:24

Judas extinguishes the first candle.

Taizé chant:  O, Lord, hear my prayer – (see words at end)


Monologue:  The shadow of Inner Agony

Salome   (Matt 36-45)

They are good boys, my boys.  Real boys, tough, scrapes and fights; all grazed knees and bruises when they were young. They were not called sons of thunder without a reason. Passionate?  Yes!  Likely to lose their tempers?  Yes!   But, how I love them.  I can depend on them to be there when I need them.

Then there is my nephew, Jesus.  So different.   Strong, but I never heard him raise his voice in anger, never lost his temper. It was an inner strength, it seemed to come from deep within, from a secret source he had.

There was that night – such a long night, the one when he was arrested. He knew what was

coming.  He knew and faced it with such courage; faced it alone; none of us could stay awake to watch and pray with him. We tried but sleep kept overwhelming us.

Sleep.  Strange sometimes you want to sleep and you can’t and other times it just suffocates you and you can’t resist. We wanted to watch and pray, but we were not there for him.  We were all weak, our strength failed us, but Jesus stood firm. The agony was clear, but for all their passion and dependability, my boys let him down, Peter let him down. We all let him down.  Jesus walked alone that dreadful night.


In Gethsemane, Jesus prayed

All:      “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done”.  Luke 22:42

Salome extinguishes the second candle

Taizé chant:  O, Lord, hear my prayer


Monologue:  The Shadow of Desertion

James   (Mark 14:32-42)

I will never forget that night!  Never!

We had eaten supper together, all thirteen of us, until Judas slipped away.  Funny that, at the time, none of us seemed to notice.

Then the three of us, Peter, John and I, went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray.  Jesus liked to pray there.  He asked us to pray with him.

I don’t know if it was the food or the wine, or the long and busy week we had just had, but, we fell asleep!

Suddenly Jesus was there shaking us awake.  He looked so distressed, and sweat was pouring down his face.   We promised to pray, we wanted to pray, but, we didn’t.  Again, we fell asleep.

We should have been there for him that night, but even then, we did not realise what was about to happen.   I think we had literally closed our eyes to all that Jesus had said.  Didn’t listen, really listen.

Then, suddenly, there at the gates of Gethsemane came Judas, with soldiers and quite a crowd carrying swords and clubs…and they took Jesus off.

And, what did we do?  We ran away.

I will never forget that night!  Never!


“Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani”

All:      “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Mt 27:6

James extinguishes the third candle.

Taizé chant:  O, Lord, hear my prayer


Monologue: The Shadow of Denial

Peter   (Matthew 26:69-75)

Even now, all these years later, that night, that awful night is etched in my memory.  How could I?  Me?  I was the one who said I would always be there for him, fight for him, even suffer, instead of him!

But that night I was a despicable coward.  I denied ever have known him!  Not once, not twice, but three times!  I denied him publically as I cowered around the fire to keep warm.   I think I was shivering from fear more than cold and I disowned the one person I loved more than anybody else in the world.  Not once, not twice but three times!

How could I?

And, I will never forget that look as they led him passed me.  He looked at me with such love.  And the cock crowed three times!  I went out and cried and cried till I thought my heart would break.

That awful night!


He was despised and rejected by others

All:      A man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity.  Ps 53:3

Peter extinguishes the fourth candle.

Taizé chant:  O, Lord, hear my prayer


Monologue:  The Shadow of Accusation

Mary Magdalene

“There was much excitement because a new rabbi, called Jesus,was teaching amazing things, and working miracles. I went to see him and slowly inched forward towards him in the crowd. Suddenly Jesus was smiling at me, praying to God and laying his hands on my head.  On me, a woman!

I felt my body cleansed of demons.  In that moment, my whole life changed. I vowed I would never leave Jesus’ side.

At the time of Passover, a large crowd of us followed Jesus to the Holy City. Oh, yes, I was there, waving my palm branch!  A glorious day!  However, not everyone liked him. The religious leaders were afraid that the people would riot, and so there was a lot of tension and fear.

Then, disaster!

The temple soldiers seized Jesus and took him away.

The next day was the darkest day of my life.

This good man, this amazing teacher, was sentenced to death.

They crucified him.

His final words were, “It is finished.”


All we like sheep have gone astray

All:      We have all turned to our own way.   Ps 53:6

Mary Magdalene extinguishes the fifth candle.

Taizé chant:  O, Lord, hear my prayer


Monologue:  The Shadow of Mockery


“It’s OK, I do know you’re doing it. Behind my back, of course.

Calling me “Doubting Thomas”.  It’s hardly fair, is it?

What about the others?  You don’t say “Deserting Peter”, do you?

You’re not even remembering “Betraying Judas”.

If you want to give me a sort of nickname, how about “Twin Thomas”? Firstly, it’s a fact; secondly, it’s what the gospels call me;

And last but not least, it’s rather clever alliteration!

Yes, I admit that I am a bit of a sceptic.

For example, when Jesus rode on the donkey into Jerusalem, I listened to the cries of “Alleluia” and couldn’t help wondering, whether those who were shouting praise then, would remain loyal in their support later on.  And (as we now know) my doubts have been shown to be well founded!

And now, he has been crucified – but I can’t help feeling that there’s some doubt as to whether he has actually died.  I will need conclusive proof to believe that.”


They knelt before him and mocked him saying…

All:      “Hail, King of the Jews!”  Mt 27:29b

Thomas extinguishes the sixth candle.

Taizé chant:  O, Lord, hear my prayer


Monologue:  The Shadow of Death

Salome, John and Mary – (John19:16b-30)

Salome:  I stood there with Mary, my poor, poor sister and John, Jesus’ much-loved friend.  I looked up at Jesus and saw the suffering, the agony and degradation of it all.  The nephew, whom I had known and loved all his life, and there he was, this good and innocent man, executed between two criminals.  My heart was breaking and my legs nearly gave way, but I clung to John and Mary.  Mostly we just watched in silence, just there for each other.   We were willing him to keep breathing, yet longing for it to be over.

John:  He had told us this moment would come, and yet, I don’t think any of us listened, really listened.  I looked at him and could see the pain etched on his face, and yet, whilst every bone and sinew screamed out in agony, he remembered his mother, Mary, and asked me to look after her.  And I do.   I love her as I love my own mother.

Mary:  Simeon, the old man in the temple on the day of my son’s circumcision, told me that a sword would pierce my heart.  But I never expected this!   I am his mother.  I nursed him, taught him to pray, helped him with his lessons, sewed his clothes, watched him grow to manhood.  Me, his mother…………and I stood there, and could do……nothing!  Nothing!

And then he died, and part of me died too.


Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.

All:      At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.

            The earth shook and the rocks were spit.  Mt 27:50-51

Mary extinguishes the seventh candle.

Taizé chant:  O, Lord, hear my prayer


A moment of silence is observed in the darkness


Mary continues:

But, in that moment of his death, at the end, I saw the glimmer of a new beginning.  And what a beginning!

Mary relights the Central Candle.



At this time there are many mothers, wives, husbands, children and friends who cannot be with their loved ones as they die, cannot hold their hand.  Lord, hold them in your healing arms and comfort them.

Jesus, as you comforted your mother, even from the cross, comfort those in agonising sorrow at this time.

Comfort all who live alone.  Let them know that they are part of our community, we love them and support them.

Comfort all our doctors and nurses as they make agonising decisions.  Be with them in their darkest times, keep them always in your light.


Lord in your mercy:

All: hear our prayer.


We remember the Last Supper


All:      As we come to eat this bread and drink this wine

            We remember you, Lord Jesus, and allow ourselves to be changed.

            Fill us with your light forever, driving out the shadows.

            You have filled our hearts with light.

            Let your presence, which meets us here tonight,

            cast out all shadows, and keep your light in us forever. Amen


As an act of confession, wash your hands and then eat bread and drink wine to remember the Last Supper.


Taizé chant:   Oh Lord, hear my prayer, O Lord, hear my prayer, when I call answer me.

Oh Lord, hear my prayer, O Lord, hear my prayer, come and listen to me.

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