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...