Chapter 15: The Times for Saying Alleluia

1 From the holy feast of Easter until Pentecost, “alleluia” is always said with both the psalms and the responsories. 2 Every night from Pentecost until the beginning Lent, it is said only with the last six psalms of Vigils. 3 Vigils, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext and None are said with “alleluia” every Sunday except in Lent; at Vespers, however, a refrain is used. 4 “Alleluia” is never said with responsories except from Easter to Pentecost.

Commentary by Philip Lawrence, OSB, Abbot of Christ in the Desert

This chapter clearly reflects the tradition in the western Church of not using the “alleluia” in the time of Lent. The eastern Churches do use “alleluia” even during Lent. This is a good example of different traditions. So we need to see what the purpose of not using the “alleluia” in Lent is in our western Church.

For Saint Benedict, the “alleluia” may be a praise of God filled with great joy and therefore best used in Easter Time and at other times of the year where the Resurrection can be seen as the focus of the celebration. Thus every Sunday, outside of Lent, can be seen as a celebration of the Resurrection. If we look at the “alleluia” this way, the we begin to see that the Divine Office of Vigils is also an anticipation of the Resurrection. Saint Benedict has the “alleluia” used in the second nocturn of Vigils regularly, outside of Lent.

For our spirituality, we need to be aware of those times when we are particularly focusing on the Resurrection of the Lord. Easter Time is so clearly focused on the Resurrection and the Paschal Mystery that we have no doubt that we are trying to be aware of participating in the life, death and Resurrection of the Lord.

Sundays also can be seen that way, but often in monastic life, Sunday becomes just another day of the week. It is important that we find ways to keep Sunday as a very special day. Saint Benedict would have us pray more and do more lectio on Sundays. That is rarely done in the present age. For our community, the Divine Office of Vigils is slightly longer, as in the Rule, and there is no official work on Sundays. Quite often the day is used as a day to catch up on sleep more than catch up on prayer!

We can also catch a small glimpse of the important of Vigils in this short chapter when Saint Benedict prescribes the “alleluia” to be used every night from Pentecost until Lent for the last six Psalms of Vigils. No other part of the Divine Office, neither Lauds nor Vespers, which are seen as important hours of the Divine Office, get this treatment.

Let us be aware of our own use of the “alleluia” in our lives. Let us be aware of celebrating in a special way the Resurrection of the Lord on Sundays and in some way in the second half of daily Vigils as we wait for the coming of the light–the Light of the world.