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Title: Alleluia  
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Subject: Gradual, Gregorian chant, Gospel (liturgy), Sequence (musical form), Easter Vigil
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Alleluia for Christmas Eve, with Jubilus (verse has been omitted).

The word "Alleluia" or "Hallelujah" (from Hebrew הללו יה), which literally means "Praise ye Yah" or "Praise Jah, you people",[1][2] is used in different ways in Christian liturgies. "Praise Jah" is a short form of "Praise Yahweh".[3][4][5] In Christianity, "Alleluia" translates as "praise the Lord".[6]

In the spelling "Alleluia", the term is also used to refer to a liturgical chant in which that word is combined with verses of Scripture, usually from the Psalms. This chant is commonly used before the proclamation of the Gospel.


  • History 1
  • Western use 2
    • Roman rite 2.1
  • Eastern uses 3
    • Byzantine rite 3.1
      • One Alleluia 3.1.1
      • Two Alleluias 3.1.2
      • Lenten Alleluia 3.1.3
      • Alleluia for the departed 3.1.4
      • Other uses 3.1.5
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The Hebrew word Halleluya as an expression of praise to God was preserved, untranslated, by the Early Christians as a superlative expression of thanksgiving, joy, and triumph. Thus it appears in the ancient Greek Liturgy of St. James, which is still used to this day by the Patriarch of Jerusalem and, in its Syriac recension is the prototype of that used by the Maronites. In the Liturgy of St. Mark, apparently the most ancient of all, we find this rubric: "Then follow Let us attend, the Apostle, and the Prologue of the Alleluia."—the "Apostle" is the usual ancient Eastern title for the Epistle reading, and the "Prologue of the Alleluia" would seem to be a prayer or verse before Alleluia was sung by the choir.

Western use

Roman rite

Example of Alleluia with verse.

In the Roman Rite, the word "Alleluia" is associated with joy and is especially favoured in Paschal time, the time between Easter and Pentecost, perhaps because of the association of the Hallel (Alleluia psalms) chanted at Passover. During this time, the word is added widely to verses and responses associated with prayers, to antiphons of psalms, and, during the Octave of Easter and on Pentecost Sunday, to the dismissal at the end of Mass ("Ite missa est").

On the other hand, the word "Alleluia" is excluded from the Roman liturgy during Lent and, in earlier forms of the Roman Rite, during Septuagesima. In those earlier forms, the word was also excluded in Masses for the Dead. In those periods, the word was replaced, in particular after the Gloria Patri at the beginning of each Hour of Divine Office, by the phrase "Laus tibi, Domine, rex aeternae gloriae" (Praise to thee, O Lord, king of eternal glory). In the Ordinary Form 1969 Missale Romanum) of the Roman Rite, the word is simply omitted.

The term "Alleluia" is used also to designate a chant beginning and ending with this word and including a verse of Scripture, in particular for such a combination sung before the proclamation of the Gospel as an expression of greeting and welcome to the Lord who is about to speak in the Gospel to those taking part.[7]

In traditional Winchester Troper.

The Roman Rite Mass, as revised in 1969, introduces a new manner of singing the alleluia that allows for the participation by all the people present, with the choir or the cantor introducing the Alleluia and singing the accompanying verse or verses — even a whole psalm[8] - but with the general body of the faithful repeating the Alleluia itself to music with a less elaborate melodic line than in the plainchant setting. The verse or verses can be those given in the Lectionary for Mass, or can be taken from Roman Gradual.[9] The traditional, melismatic, Gregorian alleluia is retained as an option, and is included with the other proper chants of the Mass in the Graduale Romanum issued following the publication of the 1969 missal (Ordinary Form of the Mass). In that form of the Roman Rite, if singing is not used, the Alleluia and its verse may be omitted rather than being merely recited.

In the time or times when the word "Alleluia" is excluded from use in the liturgy (Lent and, in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, Septuagesima), the chant before the Gospel either replaces the word "Alleluia" with another acclamation (in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite), or (in the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms) is itself replaced by a Tract. The Gradual, when sung, is replaced with an Alleluia chant during Eastertide, thus putting not one but two such chants before the Gospel reading.

Eastern uses

Byzantine rite

In the Eastern Orthodox and Greek-Catholic Churches, after reading the Apostle (Epistle) at the Divine Liturgy, the Reader announces which of the Eight Tones the Alleluia is to be chanted in. The response of the choir is always the same: "Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia." What differs is the tone in which it is sung, and the stichera (psalm verses) which are intoned by the Reader.

The Alleluia is paired with the Prokeimenon which preceded the reading of the Apostle. There may be either one or two Alleluias, depending upon the number of Prokeimena (there may be up to three readings from the Apostle, but never be more than two Prokeimena and Alleluia).

In the Russian/Slavic order, the Alleluia is intoned in one of the two following manners, depending upon the number of Prokeimena (The Antiochian/Byzantine practice is slightly different):

One Alleluia

Deacon: "Let us attend."
Reader: "Alleluia in the ____ Tone."
Choir: "Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia."
The Reader then chants the first sticheron of the Alleluia.
Choir: "Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia."
The Reader then chants the second sticheron of the Alleluia.
Choir: "Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia."

Two Alleluias

Deacon: "Let us attend."
Reader: "Alleluia in the ____ Tone:" Then he immediately chants the first sticheron of the first Alleluia.
Choir: "Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia."
The Reader then chants the second sticheron of the first Alleluia.
Choir: "Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia."
Reader: "In the ____ Tone:" And he chants the first sticheron of the second Alleluia.
Choir: "Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia."

Lenten Alleluia

Among the Orthodox, the chanting of Alleluia does not cease during Lent, as it does in the West. This is in accordance with the Orthodox approach to fasting, which is one of sober joy. During the weekdays of Great Lent and certain days during the lesser Lenten seasons (Nativity Fast, Apostles' Fast, and Dormition Fast), the celebration of the Divine Liturgy on weekdays is not permitted. Instead, Alleluia is chanted at Matins. Since this chanting of Alleluia at Matins is characteristic of Lenten services, Lenten days are referred to as "Days with Alleluia."

The Alleluia at Matins is not related to scripture readings or Prokeimena; instead, it replaces "God is the Lord..." It is sung in the Tone of the Week and is followed by the Hymns to the Trinity (Triadica) in the same tone (see Octoechos for an explanation of the eight-week cycle of tones).

"God is the Lord..." would normally be intoned by the deacon, but since the deacon does not serve on days with Alleluia, it is intoned by the priest. He stands in front of the icon of Christ on the Iconostasis, and says:

Priest: "Alleluia in the ____ Tone: Out of the night my spirit waketh at dawn unto Thee, O God, for Thy commandments are a light upon the earth."
Choir: "Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia."
Priest: "Learn righteousness, ye that dwell upon the earth."
Choir: "Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia."
Priest: "Zeal shall lay hold upon an uninstructed people."
Choir: "Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia."
Priest: "Add more evils upon them, O Lord, lay more evils upon them that are glorious upon the earth."
Choir: "Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia."

Alleluia for the departed

Alleluia is also chanted to a special melody at funerals, memorial services (Greek: Parastas, Slavonic: Panikhida), and on Saturdays of the Dead. Again, it is chanted in place of "God is the Lord...", but this time is followed by the Troparia of the Departed.

The Alleluia is intoned by the deacon (or the priest, if no deacon is available):

Deacon: "Alleluia, in the 8th tone: Blessed are they whom Thou hast chosen and taken unto Thyself, O Lord."
Choir: "Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia."
Deacon: "Their memory is from generation to generation."
Choir: "Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia."
Deacon: "Their souls will dwell amid good things."
Choir: "Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia."

On Saturdays of the Dead, which are celebrated several times throughout the year, the prokeimenon at Vespers is also replaced with Alleluia, which is chanted in the following manner:

Deacon: "Alleluia, in the 8th tone.
Choir: "Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia."
Deacon: "Blessed are they whom Thou hast chosen and taken unto Thyself, O Lord."
Choir: "Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia."
Deacon: "Their memory is from generation to generation."
Choir: "Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia."

Other uses

Gospel readings are appointed for other services as well, particularly those in the Trebnik. A number of these are preceded by an Alleluia, in the same manner as that chanted at the Divine Liturgy, though sometimes there are no stichera (psalm verses).

During the Sacred Mystery (Sacrament) of Baptism, in addition to the Alleluia before the Gospel, the choir also chants an Alleluia while the priest pours the Oil of Catechumens into the baptismal font.

See also


  1. ^ "Hallelujah, also spelled Alleluia". Encyclopedia Britannica. 
  2. ^ Jah (44 Occurrences) - Retrieved 17 April 2012.
  3. ^ (B&H Publishing Group 2000 ISBN 9780805493528), p. 298"Holman Treasury of Key Bible Words"Eugene E. Carpenter, Philip Wesley Comfort, . 
  4. ^ (Chosen Books 2007 ISBN 9780800794262), p. 63"What Do Jewish People Think about Jesus?: And Other Questions Christians Ask about Jewish Beliefs, Practices, and History"Michael L. Brown, . 
  5. ^ (Church Publishing 2005 ISBN 9780898692112), p. 234"An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church"Donald S. Armentrout, Robert Boak Slocum, . 
  6. ^ St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology (ed.), "notes to Psalms 104-106", Orthodox Study Bible, Thomas Nelson, p. 751 
  7. ^ General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 62]
  8. ^ General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 63
  9. ^ General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 62
  • Hoppin, Richard. Medieval Music. New York: Norton, 1978.

External links

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