“Christ the Lord is risen today, alleluia!”
As we prepare our hearts for the Easter season, let us momentarily consider the gift of “alleluia.” The spelling “alleluia” is the Latin form that was first penned by Saint Jerome in the fourth century. It westernized the Hebrew term “Hallelujah” which means “Praise” (hallel) the “Lord” (Jah). While the first Passover in Egypt didn’t include the term “Hallelujah” per se, we do know that they worshipped as instructed during this feast (Exod 12:27-28). So, it isn’t too hard to figure that they would proclaim “Praise God” during this time. This natural conjunction of Passover and Easter makes “alleluia” even more relevant to the Christian worshipper.
The “alleluia” has predominated every Jewish and Christian celebration since. “Hallelujah” occurs in the Book of Psalms twenty-four times. “Hallelujah” also appears four times in the Book of Revelation. In fact, Psalm 113-118 are known as the “Hallel Psalms.” These six chapters are riddled with the expression “praise God.” As you see, “alleluia” is such a simple and natural way of praising. However, while we sing “alleluia” to celebrate God’s goodness to us, have you ever thought that maybe some times we could reserve its use?
Forgive me in advance for this metaphor, but I think of “alleluia” kind of the same way that I think of egg nog. Every Christmas, I cannot wait for egg nog. I haven’t had it all year round and it is one of my favorite tastes (I know that I could possibly place the McRib in here for a totally secular parallel, but I probably shouldn’t.) You see, the gift of “alleluia” can be kind of like this as well. We wait for a specific time to open the gift with our appetite sated by deprivation, then thoroughly enjoy the feast in its due season. Easter Sunday could be that special time to open this wonderful gift. As a church, you might think about waiting to sing “alleluia” during the Lenten period until that special Resurrection Sunday – then “paint the walls” with the sound of “alleluia” all Easter long.
Like praising God, “alleluia” is a gift. It allows us to be expressive and opulent with our gifts to the Lord. As we near Easter, cherish the “gift of alleluia” in your heart so that on that day you may lavish the Lord and one another with this precious gift. As the great church father, Augustine said of “alleluia”:
“Therefore, by our “alleluia” we cry out, ‘praise God,’ and we arouse one another to praise God. We sing praises to God, we chant our ‘alleluias’ with hearts attuned to harmony far better than with the chords of the lyre. When we have sung our praises, impelled by our weakness we withdraw to refresh our bodies.”