From the Pastor – April 4, 2010

We are witnesses of all that He did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put Him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day and granted that He be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead. (Acts 10-39-41)

I told this story last year, but in a different way. One year when I was living in Rome, my parents came to visit me in the weeks before Easter. Since my Dad was 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 asked for the blessing, and then began to solemnly intone “Al-le-luia! Al-le-luia!” I quietly said: “Shhh! We don’t say that now. It’s Lent!” He whispered that it was a “Solemnity” (a Solemn Mass of Our Lady of Perpetual Help), so it was allowed. And he continued singing it. In Lent! Some Italian Catholics got a lesson in American Catholicism and Deacon dads that day!

As Dad learned later (through some help from a certain priest”¦), the Alleluia is never ever 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? It’s because the Alleluia is a word of joy to proclaim God in all of His Heavenly Glory. During Lent, our focus is on the Kingdom coming, not on the Kingdom having come. The Lenten readings emphasize the spiritual journey of Old Testament Israel toward the coming of Christ. Then the Easter readings ephasize the fulfillment of the promise: the salvation won for mankind by His death and resurrection.

We, ourselves, are on a spiritual journey toward the Second Coming and our future life in Heaven. In order to emphasize the progression of the long journey of salvation from original sin to salvation, 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.

Everything changes at the Easter Vigil when the triumph is proclaimed by the triple Alleluia before the Gospel, and we respond 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 past year since my Dad died has been like a long Lent. But the joy of the Easter “Alleluia” increases my faith and hope that Dad – a man of great Christian virtue – shares the promise that we proclaim today. It’s the promise of the Resurrection! Alleluia!

Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty