Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Burying the Alleluias

Apparently, a formal "farewell to alleluia" has been gaining popularity for Transfiguration Sunday. There are a few things I don't understand about this.

1. "Say the black; do the red." Normally, we do the things in the liturgy (such as foregoing alleluias during Lent) without a ceremony to focus on them. It seems to me that "burying the alleluias" is saying the red.

2. Why is this done on Sunday? If it is to be done, oughtn't the farewell be at vespers on Tuesday? We sang our alleluias during the prayer offices between Sunday morning's service and Wednesday morning matins. Doesn't it seem odd to bury alleluias that still have a few days' worth of use left in 'em?


  1. I'm hoping to get to Ash Wednesday service tomorrow, so I'll see what they do here. It depends on if Matt gets home from work on time, though.

    A girl from our church got mugged at gunpoint last week, and the guy hasn't been caught yet, so I'm not willing to go out after dark alone. Scary!

  2. I don't know the answer to #1, but we don't have any services at our church between Sunday and Ash Wednesday-life of rural churches. I know that we still say Alleluias in our homes, but we buried them on Sunday while we were all together at church.
    We buried the Alleluias at my church in Fort Wayne and we just continued the practice after we moved. Actually this was the first year that our church made a little bigger deal of burying Alleluias for the sake of our young children in church. You do bring up some good questions. I look forward to some answers.

  3. Rachel, yeah,... scary. I hope Matt makes it home on time.

    Ewe, as I was shoveling snow this morning, something occurred to me about what you said. What we do in church is REAL, it is not symbolic. When we dedicated our new chancel and altar and paraments, some people asked why the dedication was only during the early service. Why not do it at both services? Because the dedication is a real thing -- not a show or a teaching tool. It's real.

    I have heard of pastors being installed during the morning serviceS of their new congregation. They treat it like an "introduction" to the congregation. But it's a real thing happening, not a show, not an introduction to two different crowds (early service and late service).

    Maybe I'm being inconsistent; I don't know. But I can't think of many things we do in church that are symbolic. And those that I can think of (presenting a candle at baptism, the book-slamming on Good Friday) are practices that I am likewise not fond of. (More to say, but I gotta get out the door for chapel and work.)

  4. Susan, what category would the stripping of the altar (at the end of Maundy Thursday service) be? Just pondering . . . would it also fall in the symbolic category? How common is that practice, I wonder? (We do it at the end of the Maundy Thursday service while singing Psalm 136.)

  5. My initial thought is that the stripping of the altar seems symbolic to me. And yet, it is a very old practice that has a practical purpose. The linens need to be washed, the candlesticks need to be polished, etc. This is done in preparation for the high feast on Sunday, while the altar is bare for Friday. So if everything has to be stripped, why not do it during the service instead of afterward?

    I don't know. Maybe I'm being inconsistent. I have a much easier time with ceremonies, though, when they are centuries/millenia old than when they're only a few decades (or a few years) old.

    By the way, I could live without the stripping of the altar. I'm fine with it, but it wouldn't distress me if we had to forego it. I do, however, WANT to hear the psalm chanted!

    By the way, I think you're talking about Psalm 22. Psalm 136 would be kind of odd (in my mind) for the stripping of the altar.

  6. I checked. It is Psalm 136. I do see in my online searching that Psalm 22 is usually associated with this ritual, though. I'll have to ask the Cantor how this practice came about at our church and where it is drawn from. We have done it for a number of years now, and I have to say that for me there is something rather profound about singing "His love is everlasting" while watching the altar being stripped bare.