01 February 2009

Farewell to Alleluia

[Yes, as Fr. John will likely remind me, the hymn and the occasion properly belong at the end of this week, but here we bid farewell to the Alleluia at the Sunday liturgy prior to Septuagesima]

From the sainted O.P. Kretzmann:

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... (*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! (LSB 417)

NOTE: the question has been raised why, when Lent is several weeks off, this devotion now? If a Church is using the LSB One Year Series, today was Transfiguration and next Sunday will be the first of the Gesimatide Sundays, preparing us to enter Holy Lent and already during the Gesimas the Alleluia is replaced by the Tract (Psalm verses). There is a progressive "dropping off" in the liturgy in the weeks ahead. Come Ash Wednesday, the Gloria in Excelsis will be silenced; come Judica, the Gloria Patri as well; the Church more and more assembles in solemn silence before majesty and mystery of the Holy Cross until at the Great Vigil of Easter these all come roaring back to greet us.


Anonymous said...

Father Weedon,

Alas, how difficult it is to change things in the Lutheran Church. We still use the Three Year Lectionary because I think I have "changed" enough things at once, and don't want to force feed too much at once.
First, the Imposition of Ashes on Ash Wednesday, then the Lutheran Catechesis, changes in religious instruction and Adult Catechesis, etc.
I doubt that any but the oldest of my members even remember the Gesimatides because this congregation switched to LW fairly quickly.
One of these years I might get up enough nerve to observe the Easter Vigil... THEN maybe the One Year Lectionary!

Your former vicar

Sean said...

just don't call it pre-lent.... no one likes that, and it doesn't give the gesimas their shot. :D

Pr. Weedon, I think it was in Magdeburg, but it has a beautiful "farewell" of its own on Saturday matins I think before septuagesima. It is basically psalm 137 with alleluias between every phrase. It's excellent.... How shall we sing the lord's song in a strange land? Sad that this psalm doesn't even appear in our hymnal. I might transcribe this responsory/antiphon thing sometime soon for you.

Anonymous said...

note Kretzmann says VIOLET paraments -- not green!

Sean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sean said...

The Farewell to Alleluia

X said...

One of my friends asks "What is the BIBLICAL basis to not praise God by withholding Hallelujahs ?"

William Weedon said...


There is no "Biblical" basis for the custom; and it is not among the most ancient layers of the Church's rule of prayer (which decrees every Sunday a Resurrection festival!); but I'd simply encourage folks to live it before judging it. It's hard to express than O P did... Curiously, in Eastern liturgy the alleluias INTENSIFY during Lent. There's an East/West difference of approach here, and each is preserving something true and valuable, but neither custom is mandated. The question back to your friend, of course, is where does the Bible say NOT to withhold Alleluias for a set time? :)

William Weedon said...


Oh, oh. I've got it. "For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven." Ecc. 3:1