Traditionally the first six lines are chanted ...
On the second Sunday of Easter, I found myself sitting in front of a young couple and their two sons at Mass. The 5-year-old did quite well, but the 2-year-old seemed to have picked up the habit of singing “ALLELUIA” very loudly during every song, whether or not it contained that word.
As well he should! It’s Easter, after all.
“We are an Easter people and alleluia is our song,” St. Augustine told us. So if we didn’t happen to be singing “Alleluia,” I thought it was right and just that the little boy add it. It certainly added to my Easter joy.
Though the Church might not encourage such antics from adults, she expects us to spend Easter singing “Alleluia.” The Marian hymn we’re given during the Paschal season has the word Alleluia at the end of every line—three times in one sentence!
Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.For he, whom you did merit to bear, alleluia.Has risen as he said, alleluia.Pray for us to God, alleluia.Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.For the Lord is truly risen, alleluia.Let us pray: O God, who gave joy to the world through the resurrection of thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant we beseech thee, that through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, his Mother, we may obtain the joys of everlasting life, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.
Traditionally the first six lines are chanted, but glancing at the text puts one less in mind of monks than of eager preschoolers rushing to tell their mothers something terribly exciting. “Mama, it’s so exciting! Alleluia! God did something wonderful! Alleluia! Jesus rose! Alleluia! He really did! Alleluia! Mama, aren’t you excited? Alleluia!!”
I imagine the apostles rushing to tell Mary about the resurrection once they were finally convinced. Peter and John racing, perhaps, and the whole bunch of them cramming into the room where she was to share the news. And Mary was giddy but unsurprised, seeing as how she had known all along that he would rise. And probably he’d already been to visit her.
Still, news this good is Good News even if it’s old news. So they hugged and cried and rejoiced. And when they saw each other in the days that followed, they did the same. Sometimes in jubilant whispers, sometimes in exultant praise, again and again they reminded each other to rejoice. Alleluia had become their song.
But even the men who saw the risen Jesus couldn’t live in unending jubilation. There were disagreements in the Church. There was persecution. Stephen was stoned and others imprisoned. There were days when it was hard to rejoice.
And many of the early Christians hadn’t seen Jesus after the Resurrection. How hard it must have been to live in Easter joy when the miseries of this world made them wonder if it wasn’t all just a fairy tale.
But Mary knew how to rejoice. So however hard life got among the early Christians, she reminded them: Jesus is risen. Whatever hardship you might be struggling through, the battle has been won. Your soul has been claimed for Christ. There is a home prepared for you in the Father’s house. You may weep, because this life is a valley of tears. But still: rejoice. Alleluia!
This is the reason Easter is 50 days to Lent’s 40. It’s not just that we prefer feasting to fasting. It’s that the business of Easter is joy, a concentrated season to practice rejoicing. For 50 days, we sing Alleluia. We eat jelly beans. We have Easter egg hunts. We greet each other with, “Christ is risen! Truly he is risen!” We undergo a marathon of joy to teach us how to live in hope in times of struggle and frustration and tedium.
Odds are good that you’re going to suffer this Easter season. In the midst of that suffering, you’re going to be asked to sing alleluia upon alleluia. You’re going to practice reorienting your heart toward the resurrection.
After the first week, most of us stop thinking much about Easter. We move back to our ordinary lives. But the Church continuously asks us to return to the empty tomb, to sing praises to the risen Lord.
We practice this joy during Easter so that we can return to it the rest of the year. We sing of this joy to the Blessed Mother so that she can sing it back to us when we’ve forgotten it. We’ve got more than a month of Easter left. Consider adding the Regina Caeli to your routine—singing it at meals or at bedtime or when you start your car. Practice that eager joy of this ancient hymn and learn to make joy the theme of your life.