Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Sunday 19 September |
Our Lady of La Salette
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

How to bury the Alleluia before Lent


Holy Trinity Catholic Church | Facebook

Philip Kosloski - published on 02/11/18

A solemn way to say goodbye to a very joyous word until it is said again at Easter.

During the entire 40 days of Lent the word “Alleluia” is completely absent from the liturgy of the Church. It is never said once, even on Sundays. However, it is an important word, one that deserves an appropriate send off before resuming its use at the Easter Vigil.

First of all, the word “Alleluia” is rooted in a Hebrew expression that means “praise the Lord.” It is frequently found in the Psalms and has been always associated with joy and exultation. This is why it is forbidden during Lent, a somber liturgical season focused on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. To put it simply, Lent is like one long Good Friday.

With this in mind the Alleluia never fit in the Lenten season, but Christians over the centuries didn’t think it was right to simply stop saying it. Instead they “buried” it in a solemn ceremony. It was a way to put the Alleluia into the “tomb,” only to discover it again at Easter when the stone is removed and the Alleluia is “resurrected.”

Various traditions arose in the middle ages to “bury” the Alleluia before the beginning of Lent. It is said that many were inspired by the words of Bishop William Duranti in the 13th century when he wrote, “We part from the Alleluia as from a beloved friend, whom we embrace many times and kiss on the mouth, head and hand, before we leave him.”

In France this became a physical act when a banner or board was created that said “Alleluia” in beautiful letters. A ceremony would be conducted after the liturgy where a hole was dug in the parish garden to bury the Alleluia, only to be uncovered again at Easter. A description of the procedure is found in a 15th century book of Toul, France.

On Saturday before Septuagesima Sunday all choir boys gather in the sacristy during the prayer of the None, to prepare for the burial of the Alleluia. After the last Benedicamus Domino [i.e., at the end of the Vespers service] they march in procession, with crosses, tapers, holy water and censers; and they carry a coffin, as in a funeral. Thus they proceed through the aisle, moaning and mourning, until they reach the cloister. There they bury the coffin; they sprinkle it with holy water and incense it; whereupon they return to the sacristy by the same way.

This tradition is still found in some places, most notably in the catechetical formation of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, where children participate in a smaller scale ceremony before Lent.

It is a beautiful tradition, one that is especially joyous when the Alleluia is brought back to life at Easter.

Read more:
What does “Alleluia” mean?

Devotions and FeastsLent

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Kathleen N. Hattrup
Pope considers what to do with pro-abortion Catholic politicians
Esteban Pittaro
Argentine “Mother Teresa” was a former model and actress who embr...
Berthe and Marcel
Lauriane Vofo Kana
This couple has the longest marriage in France
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
Kathleen N. Hattrup
On same-sex unions, Pope says Church doesn’t have power to change...
Mathilde De Robien
How a lost masterpiece of sacred art was discovered thanks to chi...
Philip Kosloski
How receiving Holy Communion can drive away demons
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.