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Farewell to Some Alleluia

While I was giving the kids a bath, my older daughter asked what we would be singing in church on Sunday. I said that OSLC does Matins on the first Sunday of the month, so both kids started singing Matins in the bathtub.

Some things one shouldn’t resist, so I jumped in until we got to the end of the opening, where we would normally sing, “Praise to you, O Christ, Alleluia.” I stopped the show and said, “Wait! Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent. We won’t sing Alleluia!”

The Church doesn’t sing Alleluia during Advent or Lent in its liturgy. For Lent the Alleluia is gone from the entire worship. I explained it to the nearly 5-year-olds this way:

When we celebrate Christmas, there are presents to be wrapped, not to be opened until Christmas. When the Church goes through Advent, you’ll see things that indicate the Church is getting ready to celebrate Jesus’ birthday. You’ll see the advent wreath with candles that are more and more lit as we get close to Christmas. When we get really close to Christmas, the church will put up the tree and poinsettias. When we worship in church, we put away the Alleluias every year to be opened on Christmas, when we can sing “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” like Handel.

Incidentally the new line at the end of the opening in LSB is, “Praise to you, O Christ, King who comes to save us.” For us older people, Advent is not only about the First Coming of Christ but the Second Coming. Advent hymns like “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” have dual meaning for us. Thus it is a reminder that we are still waiting, and Advent carries a penitential air like Lent.

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  1. Norman Teigen says:

    I read your post with interest because I had never before heard of the ‘Alleluia’ not sung during Advent. I checked my hymnbook (ELH) and note that in the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the ‘Alleluia’ is not sung during Lent but no such direction is made for Advent. (I’ve been a member of the ELS for 51 of my 65 years).

    So, without trying to be contentious, I did re-read your post and found that your words to your children did not convince me that the ‘Alleluia’ should be omitted during the Advent season.

  2. Dan says:

    Norman, thanks for stopping by.

    Researching this has been interesting. The LSB in its Divine Services and prayer offices substitutes out Alleluias in Advent. It makes sense to me because for some of us Advent is considered a penitential season, less penitential than Lent, of course.

    Digging a little deeper, such as the resources at Lex Orandi, one finds that Dr. Piepkorn’s The Conduct of the Service states that the Alleluia is only removed during Lent. Given this I am now curious as to how the change occurred for Advent in the LSB, but I imagine the why would not be a shock. I don’t have any older hymnals to check this against, nor do I have an Altar Book.

    Thank you for the info about the ELH — “The Church” in the third paragraph now appears to be an overgeneralization.

    Pastor Snyder of Ask the Pastor has interesting commentary regarding the practice for Lent that easily goes for Advent:

    Should it be done? That is in the realm of freedom under the Gospel. Many Lutherans do omit the Alleluia during Lent, often using a burial service such as the one you mention. Martin Luther would probably have disagreed. He wrote, “Nor is it proper to distinguish Lent, Holy Week, or Good Friday from other days, lest we seem to mock and ridicule Christ with half of a mass and the one part of a sacrament. For the Alleluia is the perpetual voice of the church, just as the memorial of His passion and victory is perpetual.”

  3. […] Dan continues the discussion on Advent. He relates an explanation for the removal of Alleluia’s from Matins and Vespers for Advent. He spells it out at Necessary Roughness! […]