Home Worship Planning Seasons & Holidays Burying the “Alleluia” During Lent?

Burying the “Alleluia” During Lent?

Should our praise and prayer be the same during Lent and on the Sundays of Lent as they are in the rest of the year? Well, yes and no. Lent is not a season where we pretend that Jesus is crucified and dead so we make our worship funereal. The Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days of Easter; rather, they are "Little Easters." Yet there is a sense in which – as with Christmas decorations – we need to give things a rest. After Christmas, we put the lights, crèche, and star away. We know where they are; we anticipate putting them up again (at the right time); but we would not want them up all year! When we retire something familiar for a season, recovering its use has a way of making it "new" for us. It has a way of giving emphasis to what precedes and follows it. Taking a rest from something gives shape and rhythm to life, to worship, to relationships – even to our relationship with God.

Some churches, in keeping with this principle, bury or "hide" the Alleluia during Lent. Our United Methodist worship resources do not call for this and do not offer directions for doing so. However, there is a long tradition for suspending the use of Alleluia from either the Last Sunday after Epiphany or Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday) until the first service of Easter.

History and Practice
If you would like to explore the history and current practice of the depositio (discontinuance) of the Alleluia, here are some web pages that will be of help to you:

I suggest that the point of this practice is not to be quaint and archaic. Rather, such a practice enriches and shapes our prayer and our sense of discipline as we anticipate Easter. It is a kind of fasting from "ecstasy" and ecstatic praise, letting our "Hallelujah"*lie dormant for six weeks before we again burst out in joyful and ecstatic affirmation of the Resurrection.

Certainly, this idea and practice may be strange to many United Methodists; but to those who are looking for a recovery of a tested and timely way of giving shape to Lenten practice, this discontinuance of the Alleluia may be something that young and old can appreciate. It is a kind of purposeful self-denial so that there will be contrasts in the landscape of our praise and prayer before God.

Liturgical time and action

When is a good time to hide or bury the Alleluia? It could be done at the end of the Sunday of Transfiguration (the Sunday before Ash Wednesday) or on Shrove Tuesday.

  • Engage in creating a tangible Alleluia and a box or cloth sack in which to place it (be sure children get involved in this hands-on action).
  • Find or dig a place for the "burial." This could involve a lively search for just the right hiding place in the church building or on the church grounds.
  • Sing a hymn or song in which "Alleluia" is prominent; for example, "All Creatures of Our God and King" (United Methodist Hymnal, 62); "Alleluia" (United Methodist Hymnal, 186); or the Taizé "Alleluia" (The Faith We Sing, 2014).
  • Place the "Alleluia" in the sack or "coffin."
  • Invite all to join in a simple prayer such as:
    Lord Jesus,
    it is our joy to sing and say "Alleluia"
    as response to your conquering sin and death.
    Now, during the days of Lent
    we say farewell to "Alleluia"
    so that we may take it up anew on Easter. Amen.

    (Here someone from the community places the "Alleluia" in its hiding place or covers it.)

    Or use this this responsory:

    When Jesus came down from the mount of Transfiguration, he began to tell his
    disciples that he would be betrayed and crucified.
    Jesus did not enter into glory before he stretched out his arms
    on the hardwood of the cross.
    Jesus told his disciples, "If you want to become my followers, deny yourselves
    and take up your cross and follow me."
    (Matthew 16:24 adapted)
    At Easter we will again celebrate the Resurrection
    and sing "Christ is risen."
    For the days of Lent, we discontinue singing and saying, "Alleluia."

    (Here someone from the community places the "Alleluia" in its hiding place or covers it.)

  • At Easter, recover the "Alleluia" from its resting place.

One United Methodist congregation describes their practice this way:
We generally dont sing Alleluia during lent. We try to remember to explain the practice during a childrens moment right at the start of Lent, by yelling "Alleluia," and closing a box where they are trapped within. On Easter morning we get the box back out (during Childrens Moment) and release the Alleluias.

Although it is oversimplifying the distinctions, the Hebrew and Old Testament usage of "praise God" (Yahweh) is transliterated in English as "hallelujah," and the Greek-Latin transliteration in English is "alleluia." They are often used interchangeably in the church's worship.

Daniel Benedict retired from the staff of the Discipleship Ministries in August 2005.

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