This morning I listened to Lutheran Public Radio on the internet while I exchanged long sleeve shirts for short sleeves. Many of the Easter hymns LPR was playing contain exclamations of “Alleluia.” The church retained untranslated this cry of Jubilation often used in the psalms. Some of those hymns go back to the 11th century or before.
The Good Friday hymn “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” asks, “What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend for this Thy dying sorrow…” We could ask regarding Easter, “What language shall we borrow to acclaim your resurrection?”
“Alleluia” is a Hebrew word which means “Praise to Yahweh.” It’s such an important word to the church that we confess in the Transfiguration hymn that because of our transgressions, “Alleluia cannot always be out song…” Thus, fasting from “Alleluia” during Lenten we can’t wait to shout on Easter, “Alleluia, Christ is risen,” responding with, “He is risen indeed, Alleluia.”
For us Alleluia is more like our cheer “Hurrah.” Hurrah, itself is borrowed from the Danish and Swedish languages. “Alleluia” is verbal applause, verbal arm waving, leaping and dancing. So, we shout “Alleluia” (hurrah) when Isaiah’s prediction, “He will swallow up death forever,” (Is. 25:8) is accomplished in Jesus, “Death IS swallowed up in victory.” (I Cor. 15:54) We become poor sports in our victory when we turn Hosea’s questions (13:14) into shouts of contempt in I Cor. 15:55, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Death trampled to death by Jesus death. Hah, how do you like a taste of your medicine, death?