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Why do some United Methodists not sing ‘alleluia’ during Lent?

 

Rev. Daniel Benedict
January-February 2016

Some United Methodist churches refrain from singing "alleluia," "hallelujah" and/or "gloria" during Lent. This practice, sometimes called "Burying the Alleluia," is a way of recognizing the solemnity of the season and anticipating the glorious praise to be sung in celebration of Jesus' Resurrection on Easter Sunday!

Some wonder if praise and prayer, the tone of worship should be the same during Lent and on the Sundays of Lent as they are in the rest of the year. The answer can be both "yes" and "no."

Lent is not a season where we pretend that Jesus is crucified and dead so we make our worship funereal. The Sundays in Lent are not counted in the 40 days of Easter; rather, they are "little Easters." Yet there is a sense in which – as with Christmas decorations – things become more meaningful when they are not used constantly. After Christmas, we put the lights, crèche, and star away. When we retire something familiar for a season, recovering its use has a way of making it "new" for us. It has a way of giving emphasis to what precedes and follows it. Taking a rest from something gives shape and rhythm to life, to worship, to relationships – even to our relationship with God.

Some churches, in keeping with this principle, bury or "hide" the alleluia during Lent. United Methodist worship resources do not call for this and do not offer directions for doing so. However, there is a long tradition for suspending the use of alleluia from either Transfiguration Sunday (the Last Sunday after the Epiphany) or Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday) until the first service of Easter.

Such a practice can be a kind of fasting from "ecstasy" and ecstatic praise, as the hallelujahs lie dormant for six weeks before we again burst out in joyful and ecstatic affirmation of the Resurrection.

Adapted from "Lent and Easter Quiz," www.umc.org/what-we-believe/lent-quiz-test-your-knowledge-of-the-season, and "Burying the Alleluia during Lent?" by the Rev. Daniel Benedict, former director of worship resources, Discipleship Ministries, www.umcdiscipleship.org/resources/burying-the-alleluia-during-lent.