Goodbye to My Friend: The Slow Dying of Alleluia
Word of God made Flesh. This, in a nutshell, is what the Year of Faith is about.
The liturgical asceticism associated with the depositio Alleluia is a self-imposed penance. It is intended to instill the truth in us that we alone are not worthy to worship God. Unaided, we cannot make ourselves worthy to worship God. We need God's help--his Grace--to make us worthy to worship Him. We need God's worship--the Sacrifice of the Cross, made present during Mass--worthily to worship God the Blessed Trinity.
During Lent, we are asked by Holy Mother Church to look at our lives and to ask God to make us worthy to worship Him, to come more fully into his Grace, more fully out of the darkness and more clearly into His Light.
As the hymn Alleluia dulce carmen instructs us:
Alleluia non meremur
In perenne psallere;
Alleluia vo reatus
Tempus instat quo peracta
Alleluia cannot always
Be our song while here below;
Alleluia our transgressions
Make us for awhile forgo;
For the solemn time is coming
When our tears for sin must flow.
We are to sorrow at our failure to live the Alleluia. We are to sorrow at our lack of Faith in the Lord, at our failure to abide by his commandments, at our failure to abide in and fully submit and apply, the teachings and discipline of the teaching Church, at our failure to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, all our minds, all our soul, and all our strength. (Luke 10:27; cf. Matt. 22:37, Mark 12:30) What is the part of us where there may be found anything less than the all? Lent is the time to ferret it out.
How many of us have been like Christ, who is all "yes" to God, and there is no "yes" and "no" in him? (2 Cor. 1:19) What are the parts of us that say "no" to God? Lent is the time to find that "no," and to make the "no" into a "yes."
Wherever there is in us a less than all, wherever there is the least bit of "no," we have separated ourselves that much from God; there is part of us exiled from God. That part withheld so as to be less than our all, that part of our soul where there is the least bit of "no" is, in a manner of speaking, exiled in Babylon and away from Jerusalem and Mount Zion. This is precisely the message of the hymn Alleluia dulce carmen:
Alleluia laeta mater
Alleluia vox tuorum
Exsules nos flere cogunt
Alleluia, joyful mother,
Fellow-citizen of Jerusalem
Alleluia, the word of thy
We in exile gather to weep
At the rivers of Babylon
We ought to have that sorrowful pining for God that the Psalmist did who was exiled for seventy years from Jerusalem--the seventy years for the Jew is symbolized in Septuagesima Sunday's "seventy" liturgical days to Easter:
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept,
When we remembered Zion.
We hanged our harps upon the willows, in the midst thereof.
. . . .
How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand wither.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you;
If I do not prefer Jerusalem above my chief joy. (Ps. 137 :1-2, 4-6)
We ought to take that part of us that is less than our all to God, that part of us which is a "no" to God--the children of Babylon in us--and dash these little ones against the rock. (Ps. 137:9) That in us that makes us give less than all to God, that in us which is a "no" to God, regardless of how small, has no right to live.
It is this rigorous examination of our lives symbolized by the depositio Alleluia that justifies its triumphant return in Easter. The ancient Gothic liturgy in Spain touchingly personalized this absence of the Alleluia, who, like Lazarus, was sure to rise again. The Alleluia's absence was only for a time:
Thou shalt go, Alleluia; thy journey shall be prosperous, Alleluia;
And again come back to us with joy, Alleluia.
For they shall bear thee up in their hands,
Lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
And again come back to us with joy, Alleluia.
For each part of us that is less than our all that we, by the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit, are able to give to God, for each "no" in us that we make into a "yes," we have turned from sickness and death, to resurrection and thereby participate in the victory of the Lord over sin and death.
Unde laudando precamur
Te beata Trinitas,
Ut tuum nobis videre
Pascha des in aethere,
Quo tibi laeti canamus
Whence in praising we beseech
Thee, blessed Trinity,
That thou grant to us
to see Thy Easter in heaven
Where we joyful may sing
Alleluia to thee perpetually.
Let us this Year of Faith scrutinize ourselves with heightened vigor, so that we may liturgically rise with Christ on Easter, and proclaim with the Church our victory over our own sin and death. May our all to God be really our all, may any "no" to God be made "yes," and may we then be worthy to utter those words of joy and comfort:
The Lord has risen!
He has risen indeed!
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at email@example.com.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: depositio alleluia, Lent, Septuagesima, penance
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