On Shrove Tue., Mar. 4, at the Pancake Supper hosted by the youth of the parish, we will lock away our alleluias for Lent. At Easter we will take them out again, proclaiming the praise of our risen Lord. This is an important word with great power for us, so much so that we do not use it in Lent or Advent; use it more sparingly in ordinary time; and use it with abandon in Easter and Christmas seasons.
Alleluia is the Greek version of the Hebrew word, “Hallelujah.” The imperative verb “hallelu” means “give praise!” -jah is a portion of the name of God, sometimes transliterated as “Jehovah.” In the Old Testament, hallelujah appears in only in later Psalms. It is used four times in the New Testament, all in Revelation 19. For a word that appears so infrequently in the Bible, it is curious that it is so widely used in our Book of Common Prayer. This is a word that connotes worship and praise, and so even if we don’t read it in scripture, it is appropriate to use it in our worship of the Almighty God. It is a useful word and has come, through tradition, to be the praise itself and not simply the command to praise.
At the end of each service, it is our practice even in ordinary time to say the alleluias at our dismissal at the end of the service. We’re really only supposed to use it in Easter season, but I think it’s important for us to say it frequently. That said, we often say it, “alleluia. alleluia.” If we are going to say it, we really must say, “Alleluia! Alleluia!” This Sunday, the last Sunday before Lent, let us say our alleluias with great gusto, praising the living God among us.