Liturgical fasting

As the parish gets ready for the Lenten season, one of the things that always catches me by surprise – it shouldn’t, but it does – are the two very distinct liturgical omissions. It is as though the liturgy is also fasting right along with us. During Lent the Church does not sing (recite) the Gloria or speak the word “Alleluia” (right before the Gospel). It is as though they gave them up for Lent! Ever wonder why we observe these Lenten traditions?

The words of the Gloria form a hymn that celebrates the announcement of the infant Jesus’ birth. The words are from the angel’s proclamation to the shepherds in the field. It is a wonderful scene in Scripture and an uplifting song. But during the Season of Advent, we also don’t sing the Gloria in order that we wait in expectation and preparation for the arrival of the Messiah. So that when Christmas arrives, we can rejoice in what we have long hoped for has arrived. It is joyous chorus.

One that is misplaced during the Lenten season. The Church during the Lenten season is a time when we echo the sense of the people of God in exile awaiting the salvation of God – the 40 years in the desert, the time of captivity in Babylon –a time when we are to mourn our sins, consider what keeps us from God, and root ourselves in the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It is a time of preparation and hope.

It shares the sentiment of preparation and hope with Advent. But instead of awaiting Christ’s birth from the womb of Mary, the Christian people await Christ’s second “birth” from the womb of the sepulcher. Where Advent culminates in the celebrations of Christmas and the birth of the Messiah, Lent culminates in the joy of Easter when Messiah has conquered death in the Resurrection. And that it worth shouting out “Alleluia” and giving glory to God.

The word “Alleluia”, a Hebrew expression meaning “praise the Lord” is an appropriate response to Jesus’ being raised from the dead. Until then we are in the exile and captivity of Lent. And as it is says in Psalm 137:4 “But how could we sing a song of the LORD in a foreign land?

Come Easter Sunday, when our joy is complete, we raise our voices giving Glory to God and crying out a heartfelt “Alleluias.”

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