Have you ever wondered why we don’t use alleluias during Lent?
Lent, the forty days (excluding Sundays) before Easter, is a period of penitence. The word itself comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “lencten,” meaning “spring.” In the Northern Hemisphere, of course, this means a lengthening of the days and increase of light. Beginning with Ash Wednesday, the forty days recall Jesus’ forty-day fast in the wilderness as well as Moses’ forty-day
fast on Mount Sinai.
Sundays are excluded from Lent because every Sunday is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. Still, the expression “alleluia” is not used during this period because of the penitential quality of the season. “Alleluia” comes from the Hebrew words halleluyah, which means “Praise the Lord.” The practice of excluding it during Lent dates from at least the fifth century in the western
Traditionally, Lent was a period of fasting leading up to Easter. In the early church, it was a time of preparation for baptism at Easter for the catechumens, who would fast and spend days in intense preparation. Those already baptized renewed their faith by studying the Bible, the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. in all, it was a very solemn season, in which the joyful shout of
“Alleluia!” was distinctly out of place.
So Lenten music, in keeping with the season, omits this expression. On Easter, it will reappear as light breaks forth and we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection!