In the atrium, the children of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd bury the Alleluia.
The Seasons of the Church
Throughout the liturgical year, the Catholic Church makes certain changes to the Mass to reflect the liturgical season. Next to the change in the color of the priest’s vestments, the absence of the Alleluia during Lent is probably the most obvious. There is a long-standing tradition for suspending the use of Alleluia from Shrove Tuesday which is the day before Ash Wednesday until Easter Vigil.
The Meaning of the Alleluia
The Alleluia comes to us from Hebrew— Hallelujah and it means “praise Yahweh.” It is a term of great joy.
The Alleluia in Lent
The readings in the Mass for Lent and the Liturgy of the Hours focus heavily on the spiritual journey of Old Testament Israel toward the coming of Christ, and the salvation of mankind in His death and resurrection.
The practice of burying the Alleluia enriches and shapes prayer and the sense of discipline as we anticipate Easter. It is a kind of fasting— letting the “Alleluia” lie dormant before the burst of joyful affirmation of the Resurrection.
The Return of the Alleluia at Easter
That day comes triumphantly at the Easter Vigil, on the evening of Holy Saturday after sunset, when the priest chants a triple Alleluia before he reads the Gospel, and everyone present responds with a triple Alleluia.
Many Cultures, Many Preparations for Lent
Many cultures have non-liturgical celebrations for the time before Lent. For example, Mardi Gras— meaning Fat Tuesday, which ends the day before Lent. Also, the festival Carnevale— meaning Farewell Meat is a way of consuming the meat, butter, cheese, eggs and fat prior to the Lenten fast. In Germanic countries, Shrove Tuesday also known as Pancake Tuesday is the time for frying pastries— a deliciously utilitarian means of using up the oil!
Preparing for Lent in the atrium
The children further adorned the page using their favorite medium— from colored pencils to crayons and everything in between. The children along with their family write intentions on the reverse side—something in their life or in the community that needs the joy of the Resurrection— something that they hope will be different on Easter Sunday, then they pray for the intention and the intentions of all the children throughout Lent. The Alleluia is buried under rocks in the prayer corner until Easter when the Alleluia papers adorn a large wooden cross in the gathering space of the atrium and the children and catechists once again sing the Alleluia in joyful praise.
The Child’s Work in the atrium is Prayer, Reflection & Celebration
In the atrium, the prayer corner cloth is changed from green to violet as we move from Ordinary Time into Lent. Violet is the color the Church uses to represent the waiting time or preparation for the season of Lent.
During Lent the children and catechist, pray together with the parable of the Good Shepherd, remembering that we are called by name and loved by God. The City of Jerusalem is shown to help the children learn about the location of Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection.
The Cenacle, also known as the Upper Room, a favorite work for the children is also shown during Lent. The Last Supper is celebrated by reenacting it and hearing the words of love that Jesus gave us at this meal “Take, and eat, this is my body, broken for you. Take and drink, this is my blood poured out for you. Do this in memory of me.” The children are filled with joy and peace when they have their time in the atrium to work with these materials.
The discontinuance or the depositio of the Alleluia is something everyone can reflect on. It is a kind of purposeful self-denial so that there will be contrasts in the landscape of our praise and prayer.
Consider burying the Alleluia as your family’s Lenten tradition. Before you bury it spend quiet time in reflection— adorning the Alleluia and adding your prayer intention on the reverse side. Incorporate the corporal and spiritual works of mercy in your intention. Put it in a box or bury it some other way. Prepare to rejoice emphatically on the night of Holy Saturday at Easter Vigil when the Alleluia is intoned and repeated three times, in joyful glory of the Resurrection of Christ.
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