Thursday, February 11, 2010

Why do we not use Alleluia or Hallelujah during the season of Lent?

Why do we not use Alleluia or Hallelujah
during the season of Lent at First Trinity?

Both of these words are transliterations of the Hebrew word הַלְּלוּיָהּ, which means, simply, Praise GOD! or Praise ye the Lord! in some older English translations.
In the Hebrew Bible (1) as well as in the the book of Revelation (2), it is Alleluia that the angels sing as they are gathered around the mysterious throne of God--the highest angelic praise, the song of unending, eternal joy.
When we join with the choirs of angels and the hosts of heaven, we proclaim that God's Kingdom exists not just in a distant eternity, but here and now, within and among us, (3) as we gather around the presence of God, in bread and wine and in the holy gift of one another.(4)
During the season of Lent, which begins Ash Wednesday and ends at Easter, we don't deny God's presence in and among us, but we shift our focus. If Christmas is the celebration of Immanuel--"God with us," then Lent is the season of "Where are you God?" or perhaps, "Where is your love not manifest through me or through us? Where and how do we cause your presence to not be fully known in this community?" or perhaps more profoundly, and faithfully, in the words of Jesus: "My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?"(5)
That is, during Lent we remember the already and not yet nature of the Kingdom of God, and we focus on the not yet: here God's Kingdom is in and among us, but, shoot... this world is messed up. We're messed up. How can I make the world a better place? What about me perpetuates and emulates all that is wrong in this world? How might I be changed for the better?
So in religious language, Lent is about longing, yearning, penance, and repentance: looking inside and not finding enough of an answer, and, in turn, turning outside to our neighbors and to our God.
Joining in ancient Christian tradition, one way we illustrate the reality of the not yet of God's Kingdom, is to bury our Alleluia. We hide art that contains the word and eliminate its use in worship. This is a communal fast. We ask that you join with us in this spiritual discipline and even if this is not your own tradition, that you would please respect that this fast is going on here, and maintain the sacredness of the tradition by also refraining from the use of the word in prayer and worship, for the sake of those who find that this fast draws them into a deeper spiritual awareness of God.

May God bless you on your Lenten journey, and in the long desert nights, may you catch a glimpse of the promised resurrection at the horizon.

-First Lutheran Church of the Trinity

1 Psalm 111-117, etc.
2 Revelation 19:1-7
3 Luke 17:20:21
4 Matthew 18:19-20
5 Mark 15:34


  1. Tom, you've done a marvelous job of giving the stock explanation. But here's my struggle:

    As I've always understood it, Lent is the season of "forty days" of preparation.

    But Lent *begins* (in 2011) with Ash Wednesday, March 9, and ends with Easter Sunday, April 24th - a net of 46 days. As it was explained to me, the Lenten season specifically EXCLUDES the six "Sundays in Lent" (3/13, 3/20, 3/27, 4/3, 4/10, 4/17).

    So while LENT is about seeking, yearning, "where are you, God?", etc...the SUNDAYS are, by definition, outside of Lent and still remain a celebration of the Eucharist. Which is to say, "Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ will come again."

    So, in my warped understanding, the Lenten midweek services would make sense to be "Alleluia-free zones." But on Sunday, we reaffirm in the Bread and the Wine that Christ has both died AND risen - making me a recipient of the whole "I once was lost, but now AM FOUND" the grace and love of Christ.

    So (again, in my own twisted noodle) not saying Alleluia! on Sunday (at least, any Sunday that includes the Meal) seems a profound act of ingratitude. "Yeah, Jesus, we know you died for us, and we know it's a great gift, but we're not shouting about this incredible saving gift because we're not supposed to remember this, somehow, because it's Lent and we have this profound seasonal amnesia brought on by a massive overdose of the color purple. Sorry...we'll chat after Easter, OK?....Love, The Church Universal"

    I appreciate your explanation, and I'm all for honoring tradition. It's just one of those things that reminds me why you're ordained, and I'm not, and why that (in the end) is a good thing, on both counts. :-)

  2. Pastor God does not forsme us and he never leaves us. And praiseing him all the time is fantastic.God is always here with us andwe should rely and listen to the holy spirit that dwells in us to vuide us