Too Many Alleluias
Rejoice in the Lord always! Again, I will say: Rejoice! – Philippians 4:4 (NRSV)
After a hard Lent bereft of alleluias, I’m always eager to sing them again. One year, I was so eager to let ‘em rip that I included a zillion sung alleluias in the worship services for all seven Sundays of Eastertide. We’re Easter people, right? Alleluia is our song, right? The more alleluias the better, right?
After the third alleluia-heavy service in a row, a choir member told me that she really missed Lent. I mumbled something defensive, but even I was beginning to find singing so many alleluias a bit of a drag. Who knew you could overdo joy?
I should’ve known. I’d just attended a conference whose main presenter was a preternaturally cheerful Christian with gleaming white teeth who smiled at us so aggressively that by the end of the day I just wanted to smack him. There’s something vaguely ominous about relentless Christian jauntiness, something oblivious and disconnected.
Faith gives us plenty of reasons for joyous praise, even in suffering. But you don’t lack faith if you’re not singing an alleluia, let alone a zillion of them. The praise of God isn’t only what we say or sing. It’s how we live. Our alleluias may be still, but when they’re enacted in a just and merciful life, the whole world can hear them.
St. Augustine said it centuries ago: “We are praising God now assembled here in church, but when we go our separate ways, it might seem like we stop praising God. But if we do not cease to live a just life, we shall always be praising God. You cease to praise God only when you swerve from the path of justice. If you never turn aside from that path, your tongue may be silent, but your life will cry, ‘Alleluia!’”
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.