Tuesday, January 28, 2014


We sing it every week, some of us every day.  Alleluia.  Three times, nine times.  Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.  A single clear voice chants in the silence.  Alleluia.  Trumpets fly and organs resound.  Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Praise the Lord.  We sing it, we say it.  Do we mean it?  Is it just walking music, something to cover the movement of the priest from chair to ambo?  Or has it become mere punctuation, as I suspect we treat the "amen"?  (I often wonder if we stopped a liturgy after the opening prayer, to which we have all just assented with the word "amen," and asked everyone to say what we just prayed for, most of us would have not the slightest idea.)

The Boy sang Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah at his recital on Sunday.  I had heard it before, but listening to this I was struck with by all the ways alleluia sounds.  From the Chepponis Festival Alleluia to the flat spoken "alleluia" I sometimes hear at a daily Mass. I'm as puzzled as Cohen's David, "the baffled king composing hallelujah."

I am struck, too, by the thought that we might consider responding to everything that happens with that one word, "alleluia" — praise the Lord.  Chanted with passion.  Hummed in the ordinary.  Spit through clenched teeth.  Cried out in joy.  Howled in grief.  Alleluia.  Alleluia.  Alleluia.

Could I stand before the Lord of Song, with nothing on my tongue but "hallelujah"?  Could I stand before God with anything on my tongue, but alleluia?

Hear how Leonard Cohen sings Hallelujah.  The Boy told me that the triple over the duple beats in their Hallelujah is how you "make it dance"....


  1. Anonymous10:17 PM

    I'm always struck by the phrase the "broken Hallelujah". Broken but still singing Hallelujah.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. This song is soul food for me. And to have "the boy" singing warms my heart with memories of my children many years ago.