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