By: Debbie Shannon, Center Coordinator
Allelujah! Allelujah! Doesn’t it feel good to say that again? Do you miss the allelujahs during Lent?
I have to admit that, despite my Catholic School upbringing, I didn’t even notice for years that we ‘put them away’ during the season of Lent. It was over 20 years ago that I discovered that tradition. Our pastor, in an attempt to teach the young children of the parish about liturgical seasons, created a clever and charming illustration of the penitential season of Lent. On Ash Wednesday, the priest headed out onto the grounds of the church followed like the pied piper by a multitude of curious youngsters. They had spent much energy with paper and markers creating beautiful, hand-written and decorated “Allelujahs” in their Sunday School classes. Their teachers now joined them as they watched the pastor dig a hole in the dirt with a shovel. He then passed around a large plastic jar into which the children were instructed to place their “Allelujahs”. Once the papers were in place, he screwed on a lid and set the jar into the hole in the ground. It was fascinating to watch the faces of the kids as he threw dirt back over the hole and buried their beautiful work. We then walked silently back to the church to begin the Ash Wednesday service. It was going to be a quiet and somber season.
I am now very aware of the absence of the use of allelujah in our Lenten liturgies. That priest not only taught our young children a vivid lesson in the rich symbolism of our liturgical calendar, but, I suspect, quite a few of us adults as well.
Forty days later, on Easter Sunday, the pastor led his flock back out into the field on the church grounds with shovel in hand. He dug down into that dirt and brought those allelujahs back out. Then with the help of an adult, each child tied an allelujah onto the string of a helium balloon and let it go…up…up…up! To heaven? Whatever…the point was made, and I don’t think a child there enjoyed it more than this adult. I have never forgotten that illustration and it comes back to me EVERY Lent and Easter.
I absolutely love the richness of our Catholic Church traditions! They move me. I know balloons and paper allelujahs ended up in someone’s backyard later that day…and I smile at the thought of what that heavenly delivery must have brought to the people who discovered them…but every Easter I smile so big as I shout out ALLELUJAH, He is risen! He is risen indeed!
And the child in me rejoices. Again.