We bury the Alleluias before Lent begins at St Chrysostom’s. Many years ago the custom took place a few week’s before Lent began – at the eve of the third Sunday before Lent, Septuagesima Sunday. Today we do this on the Sunday before Lent.
The custom, and long may it continue, marks in a special way the coming season of Lent, the season of restraint. “Alleluia cannot always be our song while here below” says the hymn. We cease singing and saying Alleluia at worship in Lent. To symbolise this restraint, as as a physical reminder that the restraint extends to life in Lent, we bury an Alleluia Scroll, as we prepare for its great re-emergence in the Easter liturgy.
Our custom has been to gather after Vespers outside church and together buried the Alleluia in a simple and shared ceremony. We are in more restrained days this year and so we have had to do things differently – but, customs change and in the change we can find new insight.
As Mass on the Sunday before Lent Alleluias were sung out and as Mass ended the people were dismissed as Fr Ian proclaimed ‘The Mass is ended, go in peace.’ to which he added loudly and clearly ‘Alleluia, Alleluia,’ and all replied ‘Thanks be to God. ALLELUIA ALLELUIA.
Then Fr Admos took our ‘Alleluia’ scroll from the high altar and a small procession formed taking the Alleluia to the Anson Chapel where it was buried. During the procession the ancient hymn for this occasion Alleluia Dulce Carmen was sung in its English words, Alleluia, song of gladness.
In these ‘stay at home’ days we like to involve people at home when we can. Our church members were invited to make their own Alleluias at home and to hide them in their homes until Easter, when they will be brought out and placed in a prominent place.
One church member asked if she could share where she hid hers, as she was afraid she would have forgotten by the time Easter came! Another made a careful note in his diary at Holy Saturday.
In the evening we had a ‘Burying the Alleluias’ gathering on Zoom. Some showed their Alleluias they were about to hide, we shared thoughts on Lent, and we played a game or too – including trying to find where an Alleluia was buried in a special wordsearch!
Now in case anyone is thinking this is all rather modern and unheard of, here are words from Ælfric a 10th century preacher:
‘Alleluia’ is, as we said, a heavenly song; as the Apostle John said, he heard great voices in heaven, like the music of trumpets, and they sang ‘Alleluia’. ‘Gloria in excelsis Deo’ sang the angels, when Christ became incarnate in flesh in this world.
Now we leave the heavenly songs of praise in our season of repentance, and we pray with true humility to the Almighty, that we may see his heavenly Eastertide, after the general resurrection, in which we will sing ‘Alleluia’ to him eternally without ceasing. Amen.’