Speak Lord: as we sing your praises.

Heavenly host

The Gospel Acclamation we may sing at Mass today, the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, reminds what that acclamation is all about.

Alleluia, alleluia!
Blessings on the King who comes,
in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven
and glory in the highest heavens!


The verse explains the meaning of our acclamation of the Gospel.

In this acclamation we greet the Lord who has already spoken to us in a more hidden or obscure way through readings from the inspired writings of the people of Israel and from the earliest Christians, and who now speaks to us more directly in the words of the Gospel. It is the same Lord Jesus, God’s Word, who speaks through readings from the Old and New Testament. But now, in the Gospel reading,  the words are accounts of his teaching, of his life and the impact he has on others. We more easily and, again, directly, recognise his personal presence.

And because of the primacy of the Gospel reading in the Liturgy of the Word, we stand to greet and hear it; we sing words of praise to greet the Gospel; we have a dialogue which again gathers and focuses us so we might hear the words well, and take the Word to heart, and respond in prayer.

In the Catholic tradition we sing Alleluia to greet the Gospel – except during Lent. The Orthodox retain it even in Lent.

Often people have sung it for years and never wondered what the word means. Our English word is a transliteration of the Hebrew הללו יה and simply means ‘Praise God’. The mellifluousness of the word lends itself to enthusiastic singing. That said, the singing of Alleluia can sometimes seem tired and unenthusiastic: going through the motions but seeming not to mean a word of it!

Maybe today at Mass we can recover the deep praise and gratitude evoked by the verse and the ancient Hebrew word. And maybe include a (quieter?) singing of the word in our daily prayer, singing the praise of God to gather ourselves for the time of prayer, or at its conclusion.

Maybe we more often think of angels singing ‘Glory to God’ or ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’. Listen carefully. The stone angels in the picture above are singing ‘Alleluia’, apart, that is, from the ones blowing their trumpets! Photograph shows detail of carving at the West door of St Trophime, Arles. (c) Allen Morris, 2014.

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