Epiphany Hymns and Their Story

February 22, 2023

“Alleluia, Song of Gladness”

This text is proper for Epiphany, and is most proper as the last hymn of the season. This hymn was in regular use up until the 11th century, and then disappeared along with many rites and ceremonies. There was even, once, a ceremony where the church, on the day before Ash Wednesday would place an Alleluia in a coffin and bury it, and dig it up again early, early, before any service on Resurrection Sunday.
Since it is a fine tradition that Alleluia would not be sung during Lent [though it is certainly not a sin if you do], it is also a fine tradition that Alleluia be one the first words spoken on Easter Sunday.
As an expression pf praise, the Hebrew word alleluia has been preserved untranslated in our liturgies and Bibles. Verse one identifies it as an eternal expression “that cannot die”, belonging to the eternal song of the heavenly choirs and angels [Revelation 19:1-8].
In verse two, the “true Jerusalem” of our heavenly home is called our “joyful mother.” The approaching penitential season of Lent is our annual Lenten journey, where “alleluia cannot always be our song while here below”, even while it remains the eternal song of heaven.
Even though Sundays are not counted in the 40 days of Lent but are always “little Easters” even during Lent, still the restraint from expressions of joy prevails on Sundays. The final verse allows for one last joyful alleluia that foreshadows the eternal alleluias of the everlasting Easter of heaven, which lies before us in welcome.

Alleluia, song of gladness, voice of joy that cannot die;
Alleluia is the anthem ever raised by choirs on high;
In the house of God abiding thus they sing eternally.

LSB 417

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