From the Pastor – April 11, 2009

A few years ago, I was in Rome, and my parents came to visit me in the weeks before Easter. Since my Dad is a permanent deacon, he sat next to me on the altar when we went to celebrate Mass at the beautiful church of St. Alphonsus near St. Mary Major where the original image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help is enshrined.  As it came time to read the Gospel, my Dad came and asked for a blessing, and then he began to solemnly intone “Al-le-luia!  Al-le-luia!” I quietly said: “Shhh  We don’t say that now  It’s Lent!” To this he remarked that since we were celebrating a Solemn Mass of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (a “Solemnity”), then it was allowed.  Well, some of the Catholics of Rome got a lesson in American Catholicism that day!

As my Dad learned later (through some help from a “certain priest”), the Alleluia is never sung during Lent in the Latin rite.  In fact, a lot of people take care not even to say the “A-word” during Lent.

Why is that? Well, the Alleluia is a word of joy to recognize God in all of His Heavenly Glory. During Lent, our focus is on the Kingdom coming, not on the Kingdom having come. The readings for Lent focus heavily on the spiritual journey of Old Testament Israel toward the coming of Christ, and the salvation of mankind in His death and resurrection.

We are also on a spiritual journey, toward the Second Coming and our future life in Heaven. In order to emphasize that journey, the Church removes the Alleluia from the Mass during Lent.  During this austere season, we no longer sing with the choirs of angels; instead, we acknowledge our sins and practice repentance so that one day we may again have the privilege of worshipping God as the angels do.

The Return of the Alleluia comes triumphantly at the Easter Vigil when the triple Alleluia is chanted before the Gospel, and everyone present responds with a triple Alleluia.  The Lord is risen! the Kingdom has come! Our joy is complete!  In concert with the angels and saints, we greet the risen Lord with shouts of “Alleluia!”  This year when my Dad proclaims the “Alleluia” at the Easter Vigil, that certain priest who explained all of this to him will be wearing a smile of Easter joy!