During the season of Lent there always seems to be something missing during worship. Even if you can’t quite put your finger on it. Well, let me tell you, it is the Alleluias. But, why?
It would probably be best to know why we sing Alleluia to begin with. Alleluia, also spelled Hallelujah, simply means “Praise the LORD!” (or literally “Praise YHWH”). It is an exclamation of praise to our God.
The phrase is found throughout the Psalms (pretty much anywhere you see “Praise the LORD” it is the word “hallelujah”.
In the Divine Service we typically sing or say together the ‘Alleluia’ in expectation of the hearing of the Gospel of our Lord. We are about to hear the words concerning the life of our Lord and Savior. We will hear His words or the deeds that He has done. So, in anticipation of being able to hear something so wonderful, we stand up and we sing “Praise the LORD” that is, “Alleluia!”
So, why do we remove it during Lent? We remove it, simply, so we can say it again. I know, that probably doesn’t make much sense, so let me explain.
We remove the alleluia during Lent because we focus on our sin, our mortality, and our need for help.
In a sense, our eyes are no longer being turned upward to God, but inward. Not inward to our pride, but to our sinfulness.
Lent is a time of repentance, discipline, and humility. It is a time of self introspection, Christian devotion, and penitence. It drives us to look into our own sin sick hearts.
In all of this we find nothing praiseworthy. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it” (Jer. 17:9).
Because, of this, we divert our eyes from our God.
We confess with St. John, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).
We weep with King David: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and
We stand like Isaiah before our Holy God, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” (Is. 6:5).
The things that come from our lips, then, are not praises, but words of repentance.
So, in Lent, we remove the alleluias. We stop singing them and saying them. They are removed from our liturgy and from our hymnody.
So, we remove the alleluias, to focus on our sin, our repentance, our sin sick hearts, our need for a Savior. And we do this, so that, at Easter, when we celebrate the work of our Savior, who has heard our cries for help and repentance, and who laid down His life to pay our ransom, we can say them again.
At Easter, the alleluias will return. This we know. And, it is this that helps to build the glorious anticipation of shouting and singing on Easter morning, “Alleluia! He is risen. He is risen, indeed. Alleluia!”
Just like Christ, the Alleluia’s will return.