Why there is no Alleluia in Lent
The word “Alleluia” comes from the Hebrew and literally means “Praise Yah”, and is translated as “Praise the Lord”. The Hebrew word “Alleluia” as an expression of praise to God was preserved, untranslated, by the early Christians as a superlative expression of thanksgiving, joy, and triumph. It was mostly used at the Paschal time, mainly because of its association with the “the great Hallel” (Alleluia Psalms) that was sung during the Passover.
Because it expresses the apex of Christian joy that explodes at Easter, the Church suspends it during Lent, which is the 40-day desert preparation for that great Paschal experience.
It does not mean that there is a time we should not praise God. We praise God throughout the year, and this is why the Alleluia is replaced with its various translations, such as “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, king of eternal glory”, or “Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ”.
Just as our life on earth, the life of the Church is seasonal. Trees shed their leaves in winter and blossom with new life in spring. The same way, the Church symbolically goes into winter in Lent in order to blossom with the Risen Lord at Easter. That is why Lenten celebrations are more characterised by sorrowful gestures and decorations. There are no flowers on the altar, no Gloria and Alleluia in the liturgy, the hymns and prayers are more sorrowful in language. The Church is in the desert with her Lord.
The same mood of reduced joy is also experienced during Advent in preparation for Christmas, but not with the same intensity.
The Church is organic; that is why the entire year is filled with celebrations that emphasise her mood and growth process at each moment. Throughout the year, she lives out in visible signs and symbols, the great mystery of the Life and Death of her Spouse, Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
With the great “Alleluia” sung at the Easter night Mass, the Church blossoms again like a sunflower into the Easter joy of her Risen Lord. And this joy fills the whole world, with Alleluia resounding in almost every expression during the liturgy. The New Life flowing from her Spouse is celebrated anew in colours and songs of great joy, typically expressed in the Alleluia.
But now, as we look forward to this great event, let us get deeper into the season of Lent. Lent symbolises our sorrowful journey on earth towards heaven, our final Easter. Getting into the spirit of Lent helps us get into the proper spirit of our journey towards heaven. Our life on earth is marked with daily repentance. Also, we experience here on earth the New Life of Christ and the joy of heaven, but not fully yet. We still have our crosses on, we still have to suffer and die with Christ.
Symbolically, Christ still hangs on the cross in us, till the last person to be saved goes into heaven. That is why our crucifix still has the image of Christ on it.