Have you ever wondered why we don’t say or sing alleluia during Lent and Holy Week? Alleluia is a word of great praise to God which was prominent in early Christian liturgies and is based on the Hebrew word hallelu yah, meaning “Praise the Lord’.
As the Lenten season is one of repentance in the western church, singing or saying the word “alleluia” has been suspended during these forty days. During this time of reflection on the quality of our baptismal faith and life, it is deemed that the joyful nature of alleluia would be more appropriate during our Easter celebrations when sung fully and jubilantly. Hence, the alternate Gospel Acclamation for Lent which omits the alleluia; this omission goes back to at least the 5th century in the western church. But, the custom of actually bidding it farewell developed in the Middle Ages. “Alleluia, song of gladness” (ELW #318) has a translation of an 11th century Latin text that compares an alleluia-less Lent to the exile of the Israelites in Babylon. It then anticipates the joy of Easter when glad alleluias will return in all their heavenly splendor.
Additionally, some congregations have used the practice of physically “burying” the alleluia. A banner or other visual representation of the alleluia is created and then “buried” inside or outside. Alleluia is last used on the Sunday prior to Ash Wednesday – Transfiguration of Our Lord – until the Great Easter Vigil, or Easter Sunday. The burial of alleluia could happen at Mardi Gras, aka Shrove Tuesday, either by simply suspending its use or physically burying a crafted alleluia – inside within a container or outside in a sturdy box – to be resurrected during the hymn of praise at the Great Easter Vigil or on Easter Sunday.
Alleluia cannot always be our song while here below;
alleluia our transgressions make us for a while forgo;
for the solemn time is coming when our tears for sin shall flow.
In our hymns we pray with longing: Grant us, blessed Trinity,
at the last to keep glad Easter with the faithful saints on high;
there to you forever singing alleluia joyfully.
--- “Alleluia, song of gladness” ELW 318 verses 3 & 4 ---
At the Great Easter Vigil, may your alleluias be silenced no more; may you rejoice and sing loud, strong and joyously!!
Joan Mahoney, Vice President
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This blog is run by the council members of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Logan, UT. For more information, check out our church's website at princeopeace.org.