Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Don't Bury the Alleluia

Of all the things I can give up during the Lenten season, it won’t be singing.

Even though there may be some grateful individuals in my family (you know who you are), I refuse to “bury the alleluia”. 

This tradition of burying the alleluia dates back to the Middle Ages in Babylon. It’s a kind of verbal fast, a practice of intentionally omitting “alleluia” from the liturgy. 

The idea is, when the alleluia is removed for a season, it rings even more jubilant at the Resurrection of Jesus. All that holding back during Lent will just burst the banks – an anthem of released rejoicing on Easter morning.

Liturgy or not; custom be scuttled! I will let my alleluia ring out. All through Lent, and afterward, and forevermore.

Seriously. I think it will ring all the sweeter on Easter Sunday, for not having squelched it at all.

The alleluia is my shelter in the storm.

It is my exclamation point in a world of question marks. 

It is my red umbrella in the gloom.

The alleluia is my cure for curmudgeonly lapses; my go-to response for difficult people, pet throw-up and silent mailboxes.

It’s the alleluia that falls out of my mouth when God flings another magnificent sunrise into the sky.

The praise comes naturally every time I hear the sound of my children’s voices.

It echoes in my heart as a cry of breathless joy when I hear church bells, or Beethoven, or John Denver, or when I sing the PSALM HYMNS.

“Alleluia” cannot be buried because it buries all despair in four resounding syllables.

The Psalmist, David, knew it all along. So did Handel, when he composed the Messiah. As do the birds, who fill the not-yet-Spring trees with exaltation. 

So does anybody who climbs out of the combat zone into the sunlight, blinking dazedly into the surprise of a healing or a reconciliation or a second chance.

Don’t withhold the hosanna!
Don’t lay off the litany!
Don’t shush the shout!
Don’t quench the canticle!
Don’t dis the descant!
Please, don’t bury the alleluia.

Give up something else for Lent, if you so choose, but not the very thing that keeps you upright and breathing. Keep the alleluia and belt it out as often as possible; it will bolster you up and jolt the passers by.