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Alleluia!

By Scott Baker

In many Episcopal churches they carry out a strange ritual the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. In fact, I have participated in the ritual myself in other congregations I have serve. It involves a box with a lid, a banner, and usually the help of the children in the parish, although, not always. On the banner is written, or woven the word Alleluia. Since each Sunday is a mini-Easter, or Easter is the culmination of all Sundays, alleluia is very much part of our worship. However, in Lent, and in order to draw a stark contrast between the austerity of Lent and the exuberance of Easter, the alleluia is put away for a time. The banner is placed in the box and sealed. It is commonly known as “burying the alleluia” ritual. Many parishes leave the box at the foot of the altar throughout the days of Lent to be “exhumed” on Easter morning. Throughout Lent, the word alleluia is prohibited from being said. So, when Easter morning dawns, the very first word of the Easter liturgy is “Alleluia, Christ is Risen.”

Regardless if one uses the Hebrew spelling “Hallelujah” or the Greek, “Alleluia” the sentiment is the same—praise and joy for the marvelous works of our God. It is the quintessential Easter shout. Literally translated, “God be praised,” it is the ultimate cry of rejoicing and celebration. Throughout Eastertide the word is peppered throughout the liturgy, the music, and indeed is the last word uttered by the congregation before they depart. The celebrant dismisses them with these, or similar words, “Go and peace to love and serve the Lord. Alleluia, alleluia,” and the congregation responds saying, “Thanks be to God, Alleluia, alleluia!” So, it is with a shout of praise and rejoicing that the people of God go into the world to love, serve, and live in peace, gentleness, kindness, and joy. What better way to start one’s week?

This year, our shouts of Alleluia took on even greater significance. Not only in celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but also because it was the first time we were able to gather for our Easter celebration since 2019. I think this year’s alleluia was filled with even more joy and rejoicing because of the vaccines that have begun being distributed, and for the glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel that has been the COVID-19 pandemic. We rejoice that we have afforded to us, for the first time in a year, the possibility of returning to something close to normalcy. And for that I believe most people of any faith, or no faith at all, can shout alleluia, alleluia!