Saturday, May 19, 2012

Alleluia!

If there is one characteristic of worship during Easter that I would point to as something that I truly enjoy and look forward to more and more it is the frequency with which we pronounce "Alleluia". The word certainly is not restricted in use to only the Easter season but during this season we use it a lot. In addition, this word is familiar to nearly every single person regardless of their faith. In fact, the word seems so common place that its significance sometime seems lost. But when you stop and take a minute to look at this word, which the Church seems so intent on saying during the main celebration of the Christian faith, its significance is striking.

As this article in the Catholic Encyclopedia points out, the word Alleluia comes to us from several places in scripture, most notably in the Psalms and in Revelations and is the worship-word of Creation. The word means "All hail to Him Who is!"

I like to keep this significance in mind  at Mass when we proclaim Alleluia because it helps remind me what I am doing at Mass or rather what is being done for me at Mass. Understanding the significance of the word makes it a great short prayer that can be said anytime anywhere. Proclaiming "Alleluia" with an understanding of the word, what it means and where it comes from, allows me to turn any moment into a profound prayer.

I'd like to share a couple of my favorite uses of the word. The first is from the hymn for Evening Prayer from April 30th this year. The second is a quote from Pope John Paul II, which is often attributed to and may very well have originated with St. Augustine (I just can't solidly verify that).

Vain the stone, the watch, the seal: alleluia!
Christ has burst the gates of hell; alleluia!
Death in vain forbids his rise; alleluia!
Christ has opened Paradise; alleluia!
Lives again our glorious King; alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Dying once, he all doth save; alleluia!
Where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!
Soar we now where Christ has led; alleluia!
Following our exalted Head; alleluia!
Made like him, like him we rise; alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies; alleluia!

"We are Easter people and alleluia is our song!" -- Pope John Paul II

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