So I made it through Lent without this particular liturgical lapse. I never said the A-word in church. That has not always been the case in years past.
Our tradition asks us to put the word “Alleluia” away for the season, to go through Lent without saying the Hebrew word which means “God be praised.” There’s good reason for that. The somber, penitential, occasionally more-miserable-than-thou season stands in contrast to the joy and celebration of Easter, the season of resurrection when we say the “Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.”
Having noted all that, had I been consulted when the design team got together to create liturgical customs (good thing I wasn’t), I might have said that we need to say “Alleluia” all year long. Perhaps we especially need the A-word when we’re mindful of the brokenness of our world and of our own spirits, the mindfulness that accompanies Lent.
I’m not alone in thinking this. Ten days ago, my wife and I heard Anne Lamott speak. One of my spiritual guides, she has come out with a new book entitled Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy. The title is taken from a gospel song by Candi Stanton, which according to Ms. Lamott says that “in spite of it all, there is love, there is singing, nature, laughing, mercy…As Father Ed Dowling said, sometimes heaven is just a new pair of glasses. When we put them on, we see the awful person, sometimes even ourselves, a bit more gently and we are blessed in return…The good news is that God has such low standards and reaches out to those of us who are often not lovable and offers us a chance to come back in from the storm of drama and toxic thoughts.” That good news causes us to say hallelujah anyway.
Two other spiritual guides, Joan Chittister and Rowan Williams touched on the same theme when they wrote a book together a few years ago. It’s called Uncommon Gratitude: Alleluia For All That Is. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams often says that, no matter what, the proper stance of the Christian in the world is one of gratitude. No matter what. Joan Chittister introduces the book by saying that she and the Archbishop agreed on this: “Life itself is an exercise in learning to sing alleluia here in order to recognize the face of God hidden in the recesses of time. To deal with the meaning of alleluias in life means to deal with moments that do not feel like alleluia moments at all. But how is it possible to say alleluia to the parts of life that weigh us down, that drain our spirits dry, that seem to deserve anything but praise?” Good questions. Good answers in their book.
Finally, wisdom from one more spiritual guide, Elie Wiesel, survivor of concentration camps. Here’s part of what he said when he received the Nobel Prize for his writing: “No one is as capable of gratitude as one who has emerged from the kingdom of night. We know that every moment is a moment of grace, every hour an offering: not to share them means to betray them. Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Mr. Wiesel teaches that an attitude of gratitude, which sees every moment as a moment of grace, has power to change the world, and of course reminds us that we say “alleluia” not only with our lips but with our lives, not only in good times but in bad.
So on this first Monday in the Easter season, whatever it is you face, joy and challenge, cost and promise, make it your practice to say hallelujah anyway. Alleluia for all that is. Recognize every moment as a moment of grace. Alleluia already.
Praise the Lord,
O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
How good it is to sing praises to our God! How pleasant it is to honor him with praise!
Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights.
Sing to the Lord a new song; sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.
Praise God in his holy temple; praise him in the firmament of his power!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Hallelujah!
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