Bury the Hallelujah

Ok, so apparently because of my United Methodist upbringing I was ignorant about something regarding the season of Lent, not that I claimed to be an expert.  It could be I was just not paying attention as a kid because I was doodling on my bulletin.  Today at the end of our worship time I lead the congregation in an a cappella chorus of “Hallelujiah”.  Afterword I found out that some traditions don’t say Hallelujah during lent.  Apparently there’s this thing called “burying the alleluia” (and other variations).  And some of you are saying – yeah, I knew that.  This is something new to me.  I did a little research.

Here’s an explanation from the Evanagelical Lurtheran Church (see full article here):

Because of the penitential character of the season of Lent, singing or saying the word “alleluia” has historically been suspended during Lent’s forty days. This period of individual and congregational reflection on the quality of our baptismal faith and life suggests that the joyful nature of alleluia is more appropriately reserved for our Easter celebrations when it is given full and jubilant voice. An alternate gospel acclamation for Lent that omits the alleluia is provided for all settings of Holy Communion in Evangelical Lutheran Worship.

The omission of alleluia during Lent goes back at least to the fifth century in the western church. The custom of actually bidding it farewell, however, developed in the Middle Ages. The hymn “Alleluia, song of gladness” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship #318) contains a translation of an 11th century Latin text that compares an alleluia-less Lent to the exile of the Israelites in Babylon. The text then anticipates the joy of Easter when glad alleluias will return in all their heavenly splendor.

Along with a sung farewell to alleluia, some congregations have embraced the practice of physically “burying” the alleluia. This may take the form of actually placing a visual representation of alleluia in a hole in the ground, or of hiding it away after carrying it in procession around the church or worship space. This ritual practice is especially delightful and meaningful for children.

Whew.  I think we’re in the clear.  Because we sang Hallelujah – with an “H”.  🙂

(That’s a joke).

3 comments

  1. Well, just so you know, I really enjoyed singing that today. I love listening to the voices of the body of Christ raised in unison with praises to our King. So to listen to just the voices without all the additional music (which is good too) was a beautiful thing that I really enjoyed today. Just thought you should know 🙂

  2. I did enjoy singing it too. It’s interesting, I grew up in an Evangelical Lutheran Church that did not practice this, but they do now. I know there is something for everyone and some folks at our church scoff at the tradition of the more litergical churches, but…

    I think there is something to be said for practicing, decorating, and saying (or not saying) certain things for a season. For example, do we recognize our anniversary of our marriages every year? Why? Shouldn’t we be loving and appreciative of our spouse every single day? Yet still, there is something special about recognizing this day…taking time to reflect on your accomplishments, blessings, and struggles in your marriage. A day to remember why you married the person you did in the first place. I think some of the seasons and practices in a liturgical church help Christians do that too.

    I appreciate Lent and it’s purpose- the one time of the year to really focus on the suffering of Christ as he was lead to the cross. A time to realize just how much Christ sacrificed by coming here in human form, living on the earth as our example, and then dying a horrific death. Lent takes the time to have a somber reflection on this very serious commitment that Jesus made.

    I’m not saying you are against this Ben, just throwing up a little hoorah for the liturgical side of the family:).

    1. I had a similar thought once regarding Easter. I thought – why do we designate one day a year to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus? Shouldn’t we do that every week? Every day? But I concluded the same thing. Sometimes things need special emphasis to remind us of their value.

      I agree there’s a temptation to scoff at tradition – or feel it’s lost it’s meaning. In my experience, the lack of explanation FOR the tradition has caused the traditions to seem empty. If you take the time to discover the meaning behind the tradition, one might find more value in it.

      I’m a big OPPONENT of thoughtlessly entertaining traditions or rituals without even knowing what they mean. But there’s also the danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

      Thanks for your comments!

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