Shadows Lengthen into Night

Scripture References


Shadows Lengthen into Night

Call to Worship

Holy and loving God,
as we prepare to set aside our busyness
and to focus intently on Jesus’ suffering and death,
we ask for eyes to see all of the amazing things that Jesus’ death
means for understanding you, your love, and our salvation.
In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Additional Prayers

Jesus expressed his own lament on the cross with the words of Psalm 22:1. The Psalms also
provide us language in which to express honest lament, as well as trust and hope. The following
rendering of Psalm 22:1-11, 22-31 (NRSV) helps us to remember Jesus’ lament, to
express our own experiences of pain, to sense Jesus’ identification with us in our suffering,
and to conclude by offering words of trust and praise.
We hear Jesus say:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
And we too at times pray:
“Why are you so far from helping me,
from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were saved;
in you they trusted and were not put to shame.”
We hear the words of the ancient psalm even as we see Jesus:
“But I am a worm and not human;
scorned by others, and despised by the people.
All who see me mock at me;
they make mouths at me, they shake their heads;
‘Commit your cause to the Lord; let him deliver—
let him rescue the one in whom he delights!’”
And we too pray:
“Yet it was you who took me from the womb;
you kept me safe on my mother’s breast.
On you I was cast from my birth,
and since my mother bore me you have been my God.
Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near and there is no one to help.”
[Silent reflection or individual laments]
Remembering Jesus, we make bold
even in our lament to offer words of trust and praise:
“I will tell of your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord , praise him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him;
stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
For he did not despise or abhor
the affliction of the afflicted;
he did not hide his face from me,
but heard when I cried to him.
From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
my vows I will pay before those who fear him.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied;
those who seek him shall praise the Lord.
May your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth shall remember
and turn to the Lord;
and all the families of the nations
shall worship before him.
For dominion belongs to the Lord ,
and he rules over the nations.
To him, indeed, shall all who sleep in the earth bow down;
before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
and I shall live for him.
Posterity will serve him;
future generations will be told about the Lord,
and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn,
saying that he has done it.”
[The Worship Sourcebook]
— Worship Sourcebook Edition Two

Shadows Lengthen into Night

Tune Information

e minor
Meter refrain 7


Musical Suggestion

Many churches plan Tenebrae (“shadows”) services during Holy Week. The pattern for a Tenebrae service is a series of Scripture readings and songs that focus on the suffering and death of Jesus, each section followed by the extinguishing of a candle until the worship space is left in darkness. Tenebrae services have been observed in the Christian church since the fourth century, most often on Good Friday but sometimes on Maundy Thursday.
Mary Louise Bringle wrote the text “Shadows Lengthen into Night” specifically for a Tenebrae service. Each stanza relates to a specific passage of Scripture. The congregation sings each stanza prior to a Scripture reading and the extinguishing of a candle. The stanzas are based on the following passages:
  • St. 1: Shadow of Betrayal (Matt. 26:20-25)
  • St. 2: Shadow of Impending Faithlessness (Matt. 26:31, 33-35)
  • St. 3: Shadow of Unshared Vigil (Matt. 26:36-41)
  • St. 4: Shadow of Christ’s Agony (Matt. 26:42-45)
  • St. 5: Shadow of Arrest (Matt. 26:47-50)
  • St. 6: Shadow of Desertion (Mark 14:48-50)
  • St. 7: Shadow of Denial (Luke 22:54-62)
  • St. 8: Shadow of the Cross (Luke 23:33-34, 44-46)
(from Reformed Worship, Issue 86)
— Emily Brink

Shadows Lengthen into Night

Hymn Story/Background

When asked about the origin of this hymn, Mary Louise Bringle writes:

In 2006, composer Larry Harris asked me to write a text with a one-line refrain to be used in a Tenebrae service, in which the congregation would sing each of the text’s stanzas immediately before or after a paired scripture reading, followed by the extinguishing of a candle. He suggested an array of appropriate scriptures, compiled by Kent Keller, a Presbyterian minister in Colorado, which I modified slightly to arrive at the following “acts” in the unfolding drama: The Shadow of Betrayal, The Shadow of Impending Faithlessness, The Shadow of Unshared Vigil, The Shadow of Christ’s Agony, The Shadow of Arrest, The Shadow of Desertion, The Shadow of Denial, The Shadow of the Cross.
Sally Ann Morris, who at the time was serving as musician for a Roman Catholic congregation in Greensboro, NC, wrote a new musical setting for the words, and also asked for an alternate set of stanzas that could be used with the traditional Lenten readings from the book of Lamentations.
It should be noted that this hymn was never intended to be sung “straight through.” Rather, the stanzas need to be separated from one another by significant pauses for readings and/or silent reflection.
This is one of the few texts I have written “words first.” When Larry Harris asked for the original text, I asked him at least to propose a meter. He suggested, which is the meter of Thomas Troeger’s powerful text on the Stations of the Cross, “Kneeling in the Garden Grass” (set by William Rowan to a tune called VIA CRUCIS). “Shadows Lengthen” is more often published now with the tune Sally Morris later wrote for it.
— Mary Louise Bringle

Author Information

Mary Louise (Mel) Bringle (b. 1953) is Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies and chair of the Humanities Division at Brevard College (Brevard, NC). A teacher at heart and a theologian by training (with a Ph.D. from Emory University and an assortment of publications in pastoral theology), she began writing hymn texts in 1999. Since that time, she has won a number of international hymnwriting competitions. GIA Publications, Inc. has published two single-author collections of her hymns (Joy and Wonder, Love and Longing in 2002, and In Wind and Wonder in 2007), as well as anthems written in collaboration with composers like William Rowan, Sally Morris, and others. Her texts and translations are included in publications from numerous denominations, including Roman Catholic, Mennonite, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Episcopalian, United Church of Canada, and Church of Scotland. She served as President of The Hymn Society and was chair of the committee that prepared Glory to God, the 2013 hymnal for the Presbyterian Church USA.
— GIA Publications, Inc. (http://www.giamusic.com)

Composer Information

Sally Ann Morris (b. North Carolina, September 16, 1952) lives and works in North Carolina. In 1990, she discovered the joy of composing hymn tunes, and since that time has written about 100, most of which appear in two collections from GIA Publications, Giving Thanks in Song and Prayer (1998) and …to sing the Artist’s praise…(2009). Her tunes appear in Gather Comprehensive II, Gather III, Worship IV, the New Century Hymnal of the United Church of Christ, The Hymnal 21 in Japan, the 2005 Church Hymnary 4 of the Church of Scotland and in other current and forthcoming denominational hymnals, collections, supplements and recordings. Other publications include choral anthems also from GIA Publications, Inc., and also by E.C. Schirmer and The Pilgrim Press. She appears frequently as a clinician, composer, cantor and conductor in churches nationwide, and at national conferences including The Presbyterian Association of Musicians Worship and Music Conferences at Montreat, NC, the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, and The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada. She is the recipient of the 2009 Sam Ragan Award for contributions to the Fine Arts in North Carolina and the 2011 Henry Grady Miller Cup for Choral Composition awarded by the NC Federation of Music Clubs. Sally serves as Director of Music Ministries at Parkway Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem, NC and as Chapel Musician for the Wake Forest University School of Divinity.
— Sally Ann Morris
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