Burial of the Alleluia on Septuagesima Eve

In a few days hence, the Church transitions from the Cycle of the Incarnation to the Cycle of the Resurrection commencing with Septuagesima Sunday. Symbolic of the 70 years of the Babylonian Captivity, the name “Septuagesima” is a Latin adjective meaning “Seventieth” (in the feminine to agree with the feminine noun “Dominica” for Sunday), though this Sunday is not literally 70 days before Easter, but a symbolic name to correspond with the Latin name for Lent “Quadragesima” meaning  “fortieth”.

The Liturgy on this Sunday goes back to the Creation and Fall of Man with the assignment of the Matins’ lessons from the Book of Genesis. Paralleling this theme of Creation and Fall, the word of joy “Alleluia” is sung at the beginning (the Creation) of First Vespers on Saturday evening and solemnly sung again at the end of the same Vespers, and then snuffed out (the Fall) absolutely for nine weeks until it is sung most beautifully after the Epistle at the Mass of the Easter Vigil. It rises again, as it were, at the Resurrection to mark the restoration of the original Creation before the Fall.

Medieval customs arose to dramatize the dismissal of the Alleluia through processions,  song, and burial. Given below is the Latin text (English translation follows) of the Farewell to the Alleluia, the Alleluia Dulce Carmen. Some of the text is taken from Ps. 136  which speaks about the Babylonian captivity.

1. Alleluia dulce carmen,
Vox perennis gaudii,
Alleluia laus suavis
Est choris coelestibus,
Quam canunt Dei manentes
In domo per saecula.

2. Alleluia laeta mater
Concivis Jerusalem:
Alleluia vox tuorum
Civium gaudentium:
Exsules nos flere cogunt
Babylonis flumina.

3. Alleluia non meremur
In perenne psallere;
Alleluia vo reatus
Cogit intermittere;
Tempus instat quo peracta
Lugeamus crimina.

4. Unde laudando precamur
Te beata Trinitas,
Ut tuum nobis videre
Pascha des in aethere,
Quo tibi laeti canamus
Alleluia perpetim.

English Translation:

1. Alleluia, song of sweetness,
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.

2. Alleluia thou resoundest,
true Jerusalem and free;
alleluia, joyful mother,
all thy children sing with thee;
but by Babylon’s sad waters
mourning exiles now are we.

3. Alleluia cannot always
be our song while here below;
alleluia our transgressions
make us for awhile forgo;
fort the solemn time is coming
when our tears for sin must flow.

4. Therefore in our hymns we pray thee,
grant us, blessed Trinity,
at the last to keep thine Easter,
in our home beyond the sky,
there to thee for ever singing
alleluia joyfully.


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