February 18, June 19, October 19
From the holy feast of Easter until Pentecost, “alleluia” is always said with both the psalms and the responsories. Every night from Pentecost until the beginning of Lent, it is said only with the last six psalms of Vigils. Vigils, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, and None are said with “alleluia” every Sunday except in Lent; at Vespers however, a refrain is used. “alleluia” is never said with responsories except from Easter to Pentecost.
Easter is not just a day; it is a season and a way of life. Between Easter Sunday and the feast of Pentecost, (Pentecost being when the church celebrates the gift of the Holy Spirit), the communal prayer of the Rule is awash with alleluia. This lasts for about seven weeks. It is a time to allow the joy of this season to establish in us so that it might continue into the year ahead.
Translated from the Greek ἀλληλούϊα, alleluia simply means ‘praise God’. As a word of praise, alleluia is also a word full of hope. It is from hope that joy grows.
After Pentecost, outside of Lent, alleluia is said on a Sunday: the day of Jesus’ resurrection. To be people of the resurrection is to grow in a hope that can make no sense. Sometimes this hope does not fit with the circumstance of life; at the surface of things saying alleluia can be illogical. The contemplative comes to understand that the Christian use of alleluia is often not logical, nor does it have to be. Its use is intuitive; it rises from, and confirms us in, the hope of the risen Christ. This hope is not created by us; we live in it and become it regardless of circumstance.
After Pentecost to Lent, alleluia is said at night. This is a communal and practical training in the importance of saying alleluia in times of darkness. As alleluia stabilises in intuition it becomes a word that glows, illuming our night with divine presence.
Why, then, would we stop saying alleluia during Lent? Liturgically, Lent is winter, a time when life recedes into itself. It is a time of regeneration and readying, when growth goes deep, hidden from view. During this time, alleluia, as an outward expression of hope and joy, falls away so that this same hope and joy can grow roots deep in faith. This is the faith that, with Jesus, emerges from the tomb on Easter Sunday morning. Then, when Alleluia sings again through the Easter season and on into the dark, it is full of a new life it did not seemingly have before.
In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you,’ and, after saying this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced at seeing the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. ‘As the Father has sent me, so am I sending you. After saying this he breathed on them and said: Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained. (John 20:19-23, RNJB).