Absent Alleluias

You may notice a change in your congregation’s liturgy during the season of Lent. That is because we generally do not speak or sing Alleluias during this solemn season as we journey to the cross of Christ. In a sense, the “Alleluia” has been buried. But fear not, it will be resurrected again on Easter morning!

“Alleluia” is based on the Hebrew word הַלְלוּ יָהּ (hallelu yah), which means “Praise the Lord!”. Hallel means praise and yah is a suffix for Yahweh/LORD. Both Alleluia and Hallelujah are appropriate as “Alleluia” is simply based on the Greek and Latin transliteration of the Hebrew whereas “Hallelujah” remains closer to it’s Hebrew roots.

To be sure, we certainly praise the Lord during Lent. It is ALWAYS good to praise the Lord! However, Lent is a time both for individual and congregational reflection on both our sin and also our baptismal faith. It’s a penitential season, in which we repent, we contemplate, and we take an intentional and rather solemn journey to the foot of the cross.

The Alleluia, which is highly celebratory, has been omitted by the majority of traditional western churches during the Lenten season since at least the fifth century. It’s removal was intentional as it helps build joyful anticipation for Resurrection Sunday! On that day, the Church around the world gathers and rejoices with shouts of Alleluia across the globe (and in every language!). It is a beautiful thing to contemplate the love, joy and delight God must have on Easter Sunday, when his children everywhere once again worship Him with shouts of joy! In fact, God most assuredly delights every time his children worship him, no matter where and when!

To be sure, however, the giving up of the Alleluia during Lent is a tradition, not a law. It’s perfectly fine if we say it. There is no need to worry if an Alleluia slips out in either word or song. In fact, there are times when it is most appropriate to do so (though some pastors may disagree, and that’s okay too). For example, Christian funerals held during Lent should still proclaim the Good News of Christ’s resurrection (Alleluias and all!) and should always recall and celebrate a believer’s death and resurrection with Christ in baptism. The simple reality is that every Christian funeral should point us to Easter and is, in fact, a celebration that points to eternal life with the risen Christ. Alleluia, indeed!

So, during this Lenten season, let your love for the Lord and all the Alleluias in your heart continuously grow and build so when you gather together with your brothers and sisters in Christ for worship on Easter Sunday, we may heartily and unashamedly shout out our praises to our resurrected Savior – Christ Jesus our Lord!

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