Sunday, February 16, 2014

The cry of gratitude

"A Christian should be an 'ALLELUIA' from head to foot." -St. Augustine
"The table awaits us
at which our baptismal life
is fed over and over again.
We have every reason
to cry out in gratitude: alleluia, alleluia!"

Balthasar Fischer, 20th c
In the Liturgical calendar, today is the 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time.  Traditionally this is Septuagesima Sunday - marking three weeks until the First Sunday of Lent, nine weeks before Easter Sunday.  It is a time of early preparation for the Great Fast of Lent.
In the Middle Ages and throughout the 16th century, the "burying" of the Alleluia was a solemn ritual on Septuagesima Sunday.  (Many families now echo this practice on Ash Wednesday). A procession of children carrying a wooden plaque bearing the word "Alleluia" laid it at the feet of the statue of the Blessed Virgin, covering it with a purple cloth. It remained there until Easter at the Gospel procession, when the plaque was carried as the priest intoned the three Alleluias before the Easter Gospel. In Paris, a straw figure inscribed with the word was carried out of the choir at the end of the service and burned in the church yard.
Although the practice of literally removing the Alleluia from the Church may have disappeared, even today in some parish celebrations of the Easter Vigil an Alleluia card is carried in procession and placed in front of the altar during the singing of the first Alleluias before the Gospel for Easter.
Why do we refrain from saying or singing Alleluia during Lent?  Lent is a penitential season, a time of repentance, self-examination, confession and study. For many, it is a time to prepare for Holy Baptism at Easter. The Church has traditionally marked Lent by various practices of self-denial, such as dressing the altar and clergy in a somber colors, not placing flowers on the altar, singing music with a penitential rather than exuberant tone, and ceasing the use of “Alleluia!” in the liturgy. Not only do such practices remind us of our own need for self-denial, but when we burst forth with white vestments, brilliant flowers, exuberant music and shouts of “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” on Easter Day, we celebrate the joy of Christian hope.  - Written by Tom Ehrich 

The hymn Alleluia, Song of Gladness and the one that follows date from the early 9th/10th c., refering to the farewell to the Alleluia in the liturgy.

Stay with us today, Alleluia,
When the morning rises,
thou shalt go thy way.
Alleluia, alleluia.

May the Lord be thy custodian, Alleluia.
And the angel of God accompany thee.
May the Lord keep thee alive
And protect thee from every evil.
Alleluia, alleluia.

The mountains and hills shall rejoice, Alleluia,
While they await thy glory.
Thou goest, Alleluia; may the way be blessed,
Until thou shalt return with joy.
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

 From: the Mozaribic Liturgy of Spain

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