Burying the Alleluia

Photo by CP

This weekend at all our liturgies we "buried 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, bearing a banner with the word Alleluia, 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."  The banner would be exhumed on Holy Saturday in time for the celebration of Easter.

(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 didn't take us to our parish cemetery, however. The banner was taken down at the end of each Mass on this weekend before Lent and then carefully placed in a box covered in purple cloth (see the photo at the top of this post). The box was retired to a resting place just in front of the tabernacle until it will opened again at the proclamation of the gospel at the Easter Vigil when the banner will be unfurled, processed and hung again in the sanctuary.

If your parish "buries the Alleluia," perhaps you'll share in the combox how it's done at your church.

Before Ash Wednesday arrives, feast on this beautiful Alleluia by Mozart.  In my parish we were fortunate to have one of our cantors sing this piece as the Alleluia banner was processed and placed in its container and brought to its resting place at the tabernacle.  Enjoy this wonderful work  (but not after midnight on Tuesday!)

Alleluia by Judith Blegen on Grooveshark


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  1. I hope it's appropriate to share with you a link to another blog post that I just read about burying the Alleluia, this one from an Episcopal church: http://fromthesheepfold.blogspot.com/2012/02/farewell-alleluia.html

    Thank you for the background information on the history of this practice!

  2. We don't exactly bury it, but we sing it for the last time as the song sending us forth!


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