The word “Alleluia” translates “Praise the Lord.” It is a statement of unreserved joy and gladness. It speaks of salvation, glory and the goodness of God.
We neither say nor sing this word during Lent. God, of course, still deserves our praise, but we refrain from this one particular word to remind us of the solemn nature of the season. Recalling the Babylonian exile, the psalmist asks, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song upon an alien soil?” (Psalm 137) During Lent, we are effectively living on an alien soil. Mindful in this season of our distance from God, we intentionally work to draw closer. If you feel that you miss the alleluia during Lent, if its absence saddens you just a bit, then the tradition is doing its job.
We put the word away so that we may shout and sing it with abandon at Easter. It rests hidden during Lent. At Easter we give it no rest at all.
Here at my church, Nativity Episcopal, we literally hide the alleluia. With the help of our young faithful, we decorate an alleluia banner, making it as spectacular and gaudy as possible, and then hide it somewhere in the church until, on Easter, it is joyfully found, unfurled and proclaimed. Suddenly, all those unspoken and unsung alleluias burst forth with renewed meaning.
But for now … shhh!