Burying the Alleluia

Photo by ConcordPastor

(This post may be of interest to parishes considering this old custom as Lent approaches with Ash Wednesday on February 17.)

This coming weekend at all our liturgies we will "bury the Alleluia" in anticipation of Ash Wednesday and the silencing of the Alleluia until the Easter Vigil.

In the Middle Ages, faithful Christians would go to the parish cemetery just before Lent began with an image bearing the word Alleluia and singing the word they carried. There the image would be buried, a vivid reminder that during the Lenten season we "fast" from this word which means, "Praise the Lord."

(For a fuller treatment of the history of this custom, follow here to a fine article by Diana Macalintal.)

The "burial" of the Alleluia banner in my parish won't take us to our parish cemetery, however. The banner will be taken down at the end of Mass as we sing our last Alleluias before Lent, and then carefully placed in a box covered in purple cloth (see the photo at the top of this post). The box will then be retired to a resting place just in front of the tabernacle until it is opened again at the proclamation of the gospel at the Easter Vigil when the banner will be unfurled, processed and hung in the sanctuary.

Before Ash Wednesday arrives, feast on this beautiful Alleluia by Mozart...


  1. Are there prayers or a blessing over the banner before it is placed in the box or is the action and the singing enough? Too late for this year, maybe next year with a new banner we will do this.

  2. I don't know of any such texts. Here's what I do:
    -After Communion on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, I briefly summarize the history of burying the Alleluia banner
    - Our cantor sings the Alleluia from the Mozart "Exultate, jubilate," during which I place the purple box on the altar, take down the banner and carefully fold it into the box and replace the cover. Then I take the box to its Tabernacle resting place.
    - The banner is thus retired but since it's not yet Lent, the closing song of the liturgy is chock full of Alleluia's.

  3. Almost 20 years ago, we gathered all the families in our parish religious education program. We made pretzels and sang all sorts of songs with "Alleluia" in them. We decorated a banner with musical notes and plenty more "Alleluias." Families made plans for how they would spend the season, picked up their Rice Bowls, and swapped recipes for meatless meals.

    At the end of the evening, we gathered up the banner and formed a procession. We went from our gathering place out to the grotto near the front of the church. It had an opening on the side, so we sent the banner inside with a couple of the children who buried it under some rocks. Then we made a circle around the grotto and prayed the Lord's Prayer and sent everyone off with a blessing.

    Good rituals are such a treat.

  4. I hope that parish has continued that fine custom, Shannon!

  5. Hi there ! I am from from Cornwall in the UK ( My blog is Blue Eyed Ennis if you would like to pay a reciprocal visit and leave a comment I would be honoured).

    I like your blog but are you sure that this music clip is really Mozart ? !!

  6. In Victoria, Australia, this year Term One ends a week before the beginning of Holy Week, therefore it will be a bit difficult to "teach" Holy Week and the Triduum to children in our primary schools. Term Two doesn't begin until Easter Wednesday, after all the Easter Eggs have been eaten! Therefore it will be a little difficult to recapture the "spirit of Easter" with the kids. (As soon as Easter is over our supermarkets will be gearing up for Mother's Day - we've had Hot Cross Buns on sale since early January!!)

    I've used the ritual of "Burying the Alleluia" very well in various Parishes I've been in, and it does lend itself well to recapturing the "spirit of Easter" after our Easter break.

    Thank you to you and all your commentators for extra food for thought.

  7. What ritual do you or others use in the Easter season to 'unbury' the Alleluia? I am looking for a ritual with students at our school to unbury the alleluia....thoughts? Experiences? Ideas?

  8. At the Easter Vigil, at the Alleluia before the gospel, the box in which the banner has been kept through Lent is: brought to the altar and opened; the banner is brought out and unfurled; attached to its pole and "shown" to the assembly on all sides of the altar (our altar is centrally located in the worship space). The pole is then placed in its stand in the sanctuary where it remains until the Sunday before Ash Wednesday in the next year.

    Is that helpful,Michael?


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