Because We Don’t Sing Alleluia and Then We Do

Post by Allison  
My parish choir’s alto section – all two of us – came a half hour early Thursday night to rehearsal to work with our music director on Georg Friedrich Händel’s Hallelujah Chorus. As we sang, with our church enveloped in darkness and the world outside dark too, I realized being able to sing Alleluia – which means Praise God – is one of the reasons I am Catholic.

This Lent has been a long and lonely time for my soul. We Catholics do not sing or say Alleluia during this penitential season. Some Christian friends who attend non-liturgical churches do not understand why Catholics observe 40 days of Lent and then the 50-day Easter season. The rhythms of the Church’s calendar help me to understand the drama of salvation.

As for Händel’s Messiah, I’ve been singing and hearing it since childhood. I think of it as one of my personal theme songs. It was almost an anthem for my public high-school chorus and my parents sang Messiah in various choral groups. How I am looking forward to singing it with my fellow choristers at Easter Vigil after we have traveled together through Lent! Easter, in which we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection, doesn’t makes sense without Lent. Without understanding deprivation, we cannot understand salvation. Without the sorrow of Christ’s suffering, our Easter joy is meaningless. Our church was dark Thursday night except for a light in the choir loft. As I surveyed the darkened sanctuary below, with its veiled statues and crucifix, I could see only the candle burning in front of the tabernacle. The light of salvation like this, too.

When we are unbelieving, our world can be dark and desolate. Yet God is always with us. We are heading into the most solemn and holy week in the Christian calendar. We journey with Jesus to Calvary and we do so with the assurance He is risen. For a sneak peak at what will be celebrated next Saturday evening at a Catholic church near you, check out this clip

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  • cathyf

    Of course getting to sing Alleluia's during Lent is a reason to join the choir! (We gotta practice, ya know ;-) )Seriously, back when I was in the parish with a liturgy committee, the director of liturgy told us that the core of our mission should be marking time liturgically. It was our responsibility to create the environment (art, music, decoration or lack thereof, tone) that distinguish one season of worship from the next.

  • el Bolillo Tejano

    One of the beautiful "rhythms" of the Catholic Church, the pause in the use of Alleluia during the season of lent. It is one of the reasons Easter Mass is so explosive with JOY! Sorry so long away, I didn't give up YIMCathoic for lent I promise!

  • Allison

    @el Bolillo TejanoThanks for reading. And isn't it neat the way Lent and Easter line up in nature, too? Right now, buds are bursting and we are just now starting to see flowers – at least in NJ.Welcome back…

  • EPG

    I miss singing in the choirs in the Episcopal churches where I used to be a member. Handel is great, of course, if sometimes overdone. Then there is the famous setting by Randall Thompson, which has a haunting beauty. Sadly, it is rarely done by ordinary parishes, in part because most parish choirs can't seem to wrap themselves around a cappella singing. But to sing any Allelulia after the more somber, reflective (but also beautiful) Lenten music was a real treat.

  • Allison

    @EPG:I hope you will resume singing in a church choir. Of course I hope it is a Catholic one. I am blessed to attend a church where the pastor and music director understand and honor our Church's musical patrimony. Plenty of a capella singing here, including chant!Blessings to you,Allison

  • EPG

    Allison, you are blessed indeed to be in a parish where the musical heritage of Western Christianity is honored and cultivated. I wish I could say the same for the Catholic parishes in my vicinity. Sadly, from what I understand from a friend and colleague who is a devout Catholic, our area may be suffering in that regard as a result of attitudes held at the diocesan level.

  • Allison

    @EPG:I am sorry to hear that. My priest told me that when Vatican II happened, a lot of Catholic churches in the U.S. canned the organ and all the beautiful music that went with it. Episcopal churches picked up the slack, so to speak, in terms of continuing this wonderful music. To the point where many Catholic organists and music directors found employment and appreciation in Episcopal churches.Also, our diocese has its own choir, comprised of folks from various parishes, who sing at, for example, the Cathedral Chrism Mass, etc. Keep looking and I pray you will find your cup of tea.Allison