“Alleluia” (a translation of the Hebrew word, “hallelujah”) is an expression of praise meaning “Praise Yahweh”. Our Book of Common Prayer states several times that “Alleluia may be added except in Lent”. Since the fifth century, Alleluias have not been heard from the Sunday preceding Ash Wednesday until the Easter Vigil. The practice creates a verbal “fast” or “rest” which nourishes a sense of anticipation and even greater joy when the familiar word of praise returns to our service. To symbolize this fast, we bury our Alleluias on Shrove Tuesday in a service that was formerly called the depositio. Bishop Duranti wrote in 1296, “We part from Alleluia as from a beloved friend, whom we embrace many times and kiss before we leave him.” During this era, choir boys processed with crosses, tapers, and holy water carrying a coffin containing the Alleluia banner with “moaning and mourning”. The coffin was then buried in the cloister or garden, sprinkled with Holy Water, and then incensed. In Paris, an Alleluia of gold letters was burned in the churchyard. At the Great Vigil of Easter, the Alleluias are “resurrected”, and congregational singing of multiple alleluias proclaims the Lord’s resurrection unleashing pure Easter Joy!
Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church
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