From the Pastor – April 5, 2015

Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.  Col. 3:2-4

One year while I was living in Rome, my parents came to visit me during the last weeks of Lent.  Since my Dad is a permanent deacon, he sat next to me on the altar when we celebrated 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, after which then he began to solemnly intone “Al-le-luia!  Al-le-luia! Al-le-luia!”  I quietly said:  “Shhh!  We don’t say that now.  It’s Lent!”  He quickly whispered that since we were celebrating a Solemn Mass of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (a “Solemnity”) the Alleluia was allowed.  Despite my instruction, the Alleluia was loudly proclaimed by my deacon Dad, and some of the Catholics of Rome got a brief respite from the austerity of Lent that morning!

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 to not even say the “A-word” during Lent.

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

During Lent, 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.  In some monastic communities, there’s even a tradition to bury a scroll upon which is written “Alleluia” on Ash Wednesday to be reopened and proclaimed on Easter Sunday.

During the austere Lenten 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.  Then, the return of the Alleluia comes triumphally 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!”

Although my Dad is no longer with us, I fondly remember the way he guided me during our earthly journey together.  And I have the sure and certain hope that he is now proclaiming the “Alleluia” at the Eternal Banquet of Easter joy!

(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty