The Canons Regular are committed to restoring the sacred in all things and in all people, and that often means restoring customs of our 2,000-year-old Church that are ever ancient, ever new. The Burial of the Allelúia is one such custom observed each year at St. John Cantius Church. The Sunday before Ash Wednesday, we bid this sacred word a fond farewell for the duration of Lent.
The Burial of the Alleluia occurred at the end of both the 9:00 am and 11:00 am Masses on Sunday, February 27, 2022.
At the end of Mass, a placard with the ‘Allelúia’ in ornate, gold letters is taken from the Sanctuary and processed to Mary’s Altar where it is “buried”—placed under the altar cloth.
The Allelúia will only emerge again at the Easter Vigil after the 40 days of Lent, when we hear the Church proclaim the Resurrection of Our Lord. Then, the deacon approaches the Bishop with the words, “I announce to you a great joy: it is the Allelúia.” And the priest sings it in three different keys before the gospel of the Holy Saturday Mass, the choir repeats it jubilantly, and we all rejoice again: Allelúia!
In the language of prayer, some words need no translation. “Amen” is one. The “Kyrie eleison” is another. Still, another is the “Agnus Dei.”
Allelúia is also a word familiar to all Christendom, whether the language of the local liturgy is Latin or Greek, Spanish or Ukrainian, Polish or Vietnamese. It is the Latinized form of Hebrew’s Hallelujah (i.e., “Praise the Lord”). In the West, we associate Allelúia with the joy of the Resurrection and Easter. And so, the Church buries the Allelúia while the rest of us put on ashes and sackcloths to demonstrate our penance.
Pope Alexander II decreed that the dismissal of the Allelúia be solemnly marked on the eve of Septuagesima Sunday (i.e., three Sundays before Ash Wednesday) in the chanting of the Divine Office by inserting Allelúias in the sacred text. This custom also inspired the creation of new hymns sung at Vespers honoring the Allelúia. The best-known of these hymns is Allelúia, dulce carmen (i.e., “Allelúia, Song of Gladness”), composed by an unknown author of the tenth century:
Alleluia, song of gladness, voice of joy that cannot die;
Alleluia is the anthem ever dear to choirs on high;
In the house of God abiding thus they sing eternally.
Alleluia thou resoundest, true Jerusalem and free;
Alleluia, joyful mother, all thy children sing with thee;
But by Babylon’s sad waters mourning exiles now are we.
Alleluia we deserve not here to chant forevermore;
Alleluia our transgressions make us for a while give o’er;
For the holy time is coming bidding us our sins deplore.
Therefore in our hymns we pray Thee, grant us, blessèd Trinity,
At the last to keep Thine Easter in our home beyond the sky;
There to Thee forever singing Allelúia joyfully.
This burial of the Allelúia was nicknamed the deposition (i.e., “the giving on deposit”). Curiously enough, gravestones in Catholic cemeteries traditionally had the inscription Depositus, or simply “D,” to indicate a Christian’s burial. When this term indicates the burial of the Allelúia or of the faithful departed, the Christian belief in resurrection is clear. As we bury those who have been “marked with the sign of faith,” (Roman Canon), and as we enter into the fasting of Lent, we do not silence our tongues because of despair or permanent loss. Rather, we do so with confidence that what has been deposited into the earth—our dead, our Allelúia—will rise again.
Music Selections for Sunday, February 27, 2022 at 11:00 a.m.~
The Resurrection Choir & Orchestra Massimo Scapin, conductor Stephanie Culica, soprano Judith Prenzlow, alto Trevor Mitchell, tenor James Theorell, bass
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), Missa Sancti Nicolai
Franz Xaver Richter (1709-1789), Jubilate Deo
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847), Lass, o Herr, mich Hilfe finden
Dulce Carmen (orch. Massimo Scapin), Alleluia, Song of Gladness