06 February 2006

From "Farewell to Hallelujah"

The last Hallelujah dies away in chapel and cathedral, and while the echo still lingers among the rafters, the violet paraments of sorrow are placed upon the altar... It will be Easter morning before the Hallelujah is heard again...

There is wisdom in this... It is another and profound difference between the Church and the world... The world never willingly abandons joy... Her votaries hang on to happiness with all the strength they have - until, inevitably, it is taken away from them... They have forgotten that the line of life must sometimes go down into the darkness of sorrow... It is never easy, but it is better to go down willingly than to be driven down like a slave... To give up joy by the strength of Him who gave up heaven is a part of the way by which joy and heaven will return... Easter can come only to the heart that has known Lent...

The shadow which clings to all earthly good when it is seen in the light of faith is inevitable... Because of this the Christian view of life *appears* so much darker than the pagan - checkered with a darkness more intense the brighter the light of faith shines upon it... But the farewell to Hallelujah, though necessary, is only temporary... It springs from the strong compulsions of the dust from which we came and the stronger compulsions of the everlasting mercy which has lifted us from that dust... When all is said and done, Christianity is a religion of deeper gladness just because it is a religion of deeper fear and greater sorrow... The Cross remains the world climax of divine and human sorrow, ineffably distant and ineffably close, the sorrow of sin and the pain of man's long and lonely separation from God...

So it is good that our Hallelujahs are silent for a little time... In their stead appear the crown of thorns, the drops the blood, the way of mourning, the five wounds, and the sound of our hands driving nails... And on Eastern Morn our returning Hallelujahs will say that our Lord arose and ascended into heaven, that He is now the King of Glory, who has given us a share in both His suffering and His victory, in His passion and His power, in His former pain and in His present peace... (O. P. Kretzmann, *The Pilgrim*)

Alleluia, song of gladness,
Voice of joy that cannot die,
Alleluia is the anthem
Ever raised by choirs on high.
In the house of God abiding
Thus they sing eternally.

Alleluia, thou resoundest,
True Jerusalem and free;
Alleluia, joyful Mother,
All thy children sing with thee,
But by Babylon's sad waters
Mourning exiles now are we.

Alleluia cannot always
Be our song while here below;
Alleluia our transgressions
Make us for a while forego;
For the solemn time is coming
When our tears for sin must flow.

Therefore in our hymns, we pray Thee,
Grant us, Blessed Trinity,
At the last to keep Thine Easter
With Thy faithful saints on high;
There to Thee forever singing
Alleluia joyfully! (HS 98, #819)

NOTE: the question has been raised why, when Lent is several weeks off, this devotion now? If a Church is using the historic lectionary of the Western Church (as for example TLH, see pages 60ff.) then the Tract replaces the Alleluia in the Gradual during Prelent and in Lent.


John W. Matthews, Jr. said...

Dear Pastor Weedon,

Thank you for this deep and meaningful piece of writing in "Farewell to Hallelujah." I especially appreciated your quoting of the Transfiguration hymn "Alleluia, Song of Gladness." We are doing a hymn festival for the seasons of the church year in our services on Transfiguration Day, February 26, and this hymn will be our closing hymn. Last year we found Transfiguration Day to be an ideal time to do a hymn festival around the seasons of the church year, since it's such a pivotal time for churches who do observe all the seasons. It answered many questions - "Is it a day or a season", etc. It also helped to draw even more attention to the beginning of Lent. Thank you again for your excellent writings. John W. Matthews, Jr., Director of Music and Organist, Grace Lutheran Church (LCMS), Columbus, Indiana. jmatthews@gracecolumbus.org

William Weedon said...

Dear John,

Thanks so much for the feedback. Isn't Kretzmann just fabulous? I love most everything I have read of O.P. Enjoy your hymnfest! Your church is blessed to have a LITURGICAL organist like yourself.


fr john w fenton said...

If I may...

"Alleluia, Song of Gladness" is not a Transfiguration hymn. The dispensing of the Alleluia is not tied to Transfiguration but to the arrival of pre-Lent.

As I point out elsewhere (www.conversiaddominum.blogspot.com), "Alleluia, Song of Gladness" is a hymn designated by the Anglican Breviary for "Alleluia Saturday"--i.e., First Vespers of Septuagesima Sunday. In the English Hymnal (1924) it is designated for "The Week before Septuagesima."

William Weedon said...

Thank you, Fr. Fenton. Indeed the song is tied to Transfiguration only because of the poverty of our practice - that that is the last service we have BEFORE the arrival of Septuagesima. Pity, that.

Wartburg said...

Pastor Weedon,
Greetings. The Saturday after GOOD FRIDAY and before EASTER Sunday has always been "different" for me. We go through GOOD FRIDAY and the absolute words in Isaiah 53,the four GOSPELS -the DEATH of THE LORD JESUS CHRIST and then Saturday morning arrives.I think to myself how HE lays DEAD. The whole Saturday is a day of reflection as well. Then comes SUNDAY MORNING! Please comment on THE SATURDAY.
Thank YOU

William Weedon said...

That Saturday is so holy and so special. It is the fulfillment of the Sabbath - for on the very same day when the Lord finished and rested from His work of creation, He now (in the flesh) has finished and rests from His work of redemption. Thereby He also sanctifies the graves of His saints - makes them our little Sabbath rest.

Johann Gerhard has likened the entirety of our life to the three days:

Life in this age is one constantly of the cross ("take up your cross daily" as our Lord says in St. Luke). It is a true Passion Day.

After this life, there comes a little rest for our bodies in their graves.

And then comes the joyous Resurrection Day for us, when we will be raised in our bodies to rejoice forever before Him who made us and became man to make us the children of God.

Thus the middle day, the Sabbath Day, is the day of "rest." "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth, for *they rest from their labors* and their works do follow them!"

Glory to Jesus Christ our God! Glory to Him forever!