The Alleluia, that joyful word expressing our gratitude for the gift of our salvation and our joy at the Resurrection, is traditionally silenced at the end of 1st Vespers for Septuagesima Sunday. Such sorrow is felt at the absence of this dear and constant friend that in some places the tradition of burying the Alleluia until Easter has been revived. Like a true Christian burial, the burial of the Alleluia is marked not by inconsolable sorrow, but by confidence that what is laid in the ground will rise again. At the end of our Lenten prayer, fasting, and giving, the Alleluia will ring out announcing the Resurrection with a vigor increased by its temporary absence.
For centuries it has been customary to observe a period of preparation for the rigors of Lent. Called the season of Septuagesima from the Sunday that marks its beginning (three Sundays before Ash Wednesday), these three 'weeks' leading up to Ash Wednesday are characterized by a certain somberness in the extraordinary form - the vestments are changed to violet, the Mass texts turn our attention to the reality of original sin and its consequences, and, perhaps most striking of all, the Alleluia is omitted, not to be heard again until the Easter Vigil.
For the first time in our community history, we observed this delightful custom. The Alleluia rang out one last time at the conclusion of Vespers followed by a solemn procession escorting the Alleluia from its honorary place on the altar to its Lenten grave, where it will remain until after the Easter Vigil. Its absence is notable, reminding us of the solemn season rapidly approaching and prompting us to ask for the graces attached to this liturgical season.