Alleluia, Song of Gladness

I came across this traditional hymn which is intended to lead the congregation into the Lenten season. As the song progresses the lyrics teach us why we don’t sing Alleluias during this penitential time. As much as I loved the poetry, I felt the words were a bit stuffy for a 21st century congregation, so I took some liberties with the public domain English translation. I’ve posted the before and after below.

We will sing this to the old French carol PICARDY (a.k.a. “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”). The minor key of that tune will enhance the action we will take while sing this as the closing hymn of our traditional Transfiguration/Alleluia! service. We will have an open trunk at the front of the sanctuary and during the singing, people will come forward and place in the trunk, all banners, pennants and other materials that have the word “alleluia” printed on them (which will have been waved about throughout the worship service). We will lock it during the benediction and will not open it again until the opening of our Easter morning service.

And that’s that! May your Lenten journey be blessed with the deep peace that comes from walking in God’s mercy.

Original Words: Latin, 11th c., translated to English by John Mason Neale (1818-1866)

Alleluia, song of gladness,
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.

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.

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.

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.

My adaptation from Neale’s translation

Alleluia, song of gladness,
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.

Alleluias now resounding,
claiming kingdom hope and truth;
alleluias fill the heavens,
as new life within us blooms;
still by Babylon’s sad waters
mourning exiles feel rebuked.

Alleluia cannot always
be our song while here below;
soon our hearts will mourn transgressions
Alleluias we forgo;
for the solemn time is coming
when our tears for sin must flow.

Therefore on our Lenten journey,
grant us, blessed Trinity,
as we turn to you repentant
teach us to sing differently
‘till in Easter joy, with grateful hearts we sing
alleluias joyfully.


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