On burying Alleluia

This week I was blessed by the creative gifts of fellow clergywoman Rev. Dr. Rhonda VanDyke Colby, who serves as the Dean of Spiritual Life at Shenandoah University. A tradition for many in the Christian tradition is to “bury the alleluia during lent.” Rhonda wrote how this tradition has held deep meaning for her over the years:

“To refraining from uttering in song or speech the Christian ecstatic expression of Alleluia is a significant Lenten sacrifice. For a season we fast from such an “over the top” proclamation so that when Easter comes, we rediscover the word anew even as we rediscover the Word made flesh now risen. How exuberant! How joyful! What a relief and release it will be to whisper the word in the pre-dawn moments of Easter morning!”

This year during worship planning her spirit was moved by another perspective on this practice. We can only give something up because we know we have it and can go back to it when the fast is over. What about the people in need who are free to “give it up” because they don’t have it in the first place? Some people can’t fast because they often go without food due to poverty. Others have no hope in Christ because they don’t know Christ and have never proclaimed Alleluia for themselves!

Rhonda writes,

“What a harsh winter it has been. Snow on snow. Death on death. Pain on pain. This week I have listened to a chorus of anguish from students and others. Is it just me or is the despair deeper this year? Snow in record depths.; sadness in record depths. Are even the self-inflicted wounds more brutal?

In such dark and desperate times, I began to wonder, “Who am I to withhold even an ounce of hope in the darkness?” Rather than burying the alleluia this year, perhaps I should be pulling it out of the snow bank and into any little bit of sunlight to thaw. Perhaps I should be serving up even meager alleluias like a silver platter of breadcrumbs for hungry birds.”

Thank for your meager alleluias, Rhonda! Special thanks to DeLyn Celec for her music and Sarah Onore for her pictures.

On Burying the Alleluia

I’ve heard about these forty days
When saints and sinners fast and pray
Surrend’ring certain pleasures that are due you.
They give up things they can afford
For close encounters with the Lord
To taste, to touch, to hear, or even view You.
Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

It comes relentlessly this year
When winter’s dark and earth’s austere
The snow and now the wind will cut right through you.
In sacrifice we pause our praise
For forty endless nights and days
In drifts of sludge we bury alleluia.
Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

A thirst so strong it must be quenched
Baptismal waters. Fully drenched
You can’t hold back the grace that’s rushing to you.
We taste this Word in bread and wine
On mundane days or sacred time
The life, the blood, the hope that pulses through you.
Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

I’ve learned my lessons, wrong from right
How Lent is purple. Easter’s white
The church’s high liturgics, I’ll review you.
But in the face of so much pain
I cling to hope. I won’t restrain
My tongue from screaming desperate Alleluia.
Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.


One Response to On burying Alleluia

  1. Danica says:

    Thanks, Sarah. The video is inspiring & what a strong message.

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