There is probably no other word in the Christian vocabulary that captures the essence of the Easter experience than “Alleluia.” It is the word that for the 40 days of our Lenten journey has been silent. In fact, in some monastic communities, there is the ancient practice of literally burying the “Alleluia” in the antiphonal books in which it appears!
The word, “Alleluia” like its companion word that is utilized often in Christian liturgy, “Amen,” were brought directly into the grammar of the Christian liturgy from its Jewish roots, untranslated. These two words echoed within the Jerusalem Temple and prayerfully summarized the thoughts and feelings of our Jewish sisters and brothers before the presence of the Lord in the Holy of Holies.
The word literally means, “Praise Yahweh,” or, in English, “Praise the Lord.” It is the exultant acclamation that came forth from the assembly of God’s people in recognition of the God from whom all blessings flow.
In the Great Easter Vigil, it finally makes its appearance after a 40-day silence, following the reading from Romans and prior to the Gospel of the Resurrection. The ancient tone used is characteristic of an elaborate ‘melismatic’ chant that plays on and elongates each syllable.
It again appears at the solemn conclusion of the Easter Vigil Mass in a unique double format. This double “Alleluia” is used solely as the dismissal during the great eight days of celebrating the joy of Easter, reappearing again only on the Festival of Pentecost that ends the 50 days of Easter rejoicing.
Through the ages, this simple chant melody in the hands of the great composers has led to some of the most memorable settings, giving 'praise to God' for his Risen Son. Alleluia!