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Farewell to Alleluia

by sean.daenzer ~ February 2nd, 2009

In most Lutheran parishes today, we bid “farewell” to Alleluia on Transfiguration Sunday, the last Lord’s Day before Septuagesima. The proper that most often accompanies the ceremony of burying or removing the “Alleluia” is “Alleluia, Song of Gladness”, an 11th century Latin hymn translated by J. M. Neale, a fitting hymn.

Lutherans in the 16th and 17th centuries would have said “farewell” on Saturday. (In Latin, the “Deposition of Alleluia”) For parishes with more than the typical weekend services (First Vespers, Matins, Mass, Second Vespers), this would fall on the last office before Saturday Vespers before Septuagesima (likely Matins). The Cantica Sacra of Magdeburg (1613) provides this beautiful antiphon to be sung after the lection at Matins. (In depositione ALLELUIA post lectionem capitis germanice cantatur sequens Antiphona.)

It is comprised of portions of Psalm 137 (super flumina Babylonis) with Alleluias inserted between the phrases. The text is as follows:

Hymnum cantate nobis, Alleluia, de canticis Sion, Alleluia, Quomodo cantabimus canticum Domini in terra aliena? Alleluia, Septuaginta annos super flumina Babylonis sedimus et flevimus, dum recordaremur Sion, Alleluia, ibi suspendimus organa nostra, alleluia.

Sing us a hymn, alleluia, the songs of Zion, alleluia, How can we sing the Lord’s song in an alien land? alleluia, Seventy years by the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept, when we recalled Zion, alleluia, there we suspended our chanting [of] alleluia. (organum is a loaded term encompassing instruments, voices, and even as a term for chant itself. The English of the psalm is “harps”)

The inclusion of “Seventy years” shows the significance of the Gesimas to Lent, namely the seventy years of exile recalled here in the Church year. As Septuagesima is the seventieth day, so Lent used to be called “Quadragesima” for the forty-days therein. This transcription takes its text from the KJV so as to compliment the common service texts used in the Divine Service propers.

The Deposition of Alleluia

4 Responses to Farewell to Alleluia

  1. +BF Eckardt

    I’d say Transfiguration would be premature for the depositio, particularly for anyone having masses or other services during the week.

    Here we don’t bid the alleluia farewell until Septuagesima. The choir sings the depositio first thing, prior to the opening hymn:

    “We do not now deserve to sing the Alleluia forever;
    Guilt forces us
    To dismiss thee, O Alleluia.
    For the time approaches in which we must weep for our sins.”

    Those are traditional lyrics, for which I wrote a setting for our choir. If I have time, I’ll get an audio file up somewhere.

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  4. Thomas Zeller

    This is simply pathetic! What Christian in their right mind, would ever bid farewell to Alleluia? I don’t care if lent is 365 days of the year, Alleluia has to be on our minds and in our hearts constantly. Satan has to be the author of this practice and song. Who else would appear as a lamb but underneath is a vicious wolf attacking the joyous good news of the Gospel of God’s promise? Sick, Sick, Sick!

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