I will begin by admitting that, at this moment, I do not really feel like singing Alleluia (okay, perhaps I feel like it more than I did a few days ago when I began this post). And I will also admit that, the Alleluia sung in our service at Calvary is generally not my favorite portion of the service — it is generally very hard to sing and somewhat uncomfortable vocally. This is not news to those I sing with — if they’ve heard me say it once, they’ve heard it hundreds of times.
But, having read the book I was working on (Joan Chittister’s The Liturgical Year) through the current point in the liturgical year, I decided to switch to another (this is a bad habit of mine, reading many books at once) as I had time to enjoy my new chair (that successfully arrived before the end of the year) and I was in full “cocoon” mode of living.
The new book, also by Sr. Joan is Uncommon Gratitude: Alleluia for All That Is, written with Archbishop Rowan Williams, asks a simple question: “What if life itself was meant to be one long alleluia moment?”
Now, let me be perfectly clear — if there is one theological/religious/spiritual precept that has governed my life, no matter what at any given moment I felt to be the theological driving force of my living, the one that is always present and the one that always wins over any other thought or belief is, in fact the simplest: to live and move always from a place of gratitude. In fact, we have a simple exercise at our house that regularly saves the day and turns the tide: no matter what, when you see no way ahead but darkness and despair, stop — and name five things for which you are grateful. This is a most powerful perspective changer. Even if all you can find in the moment to express gratitude for is the air we breath, the fact that you are live, that your legs work and yours eyes are okay and …. well, you get the idea. The point is, that there is as long as you have life and breath, there is something to for which you can express gratitude.
I haven’t read very far yet, but I’m sure that there will be many moments of enlightenment as I read its pages. It never hurts to be reminded, particularly as a new calendar year begins and as we have just stepped into a new liturgical year that, most of all, we should be grateful for yet another opportunity to deepen in our faith, to share our bounty and our love with others, and yet more opportunities to reach out to those in need.
To quote Sr. Joan: “Life itself is an exercise in learning to sing alleluia here in order to recognize the face of God hidden in the recesses of time. To deal with the meaning of alleluia in life means to deal with the moments that do not feel like alleluia moments at all.”
Alleluia has many meanings. It is, in truth, a word borrowed from Ancient Hebrew, meaning, in the imperative, to praise God. In the oldest hymns of the church, it meant “All hail to the One who is.” It is an order to praise God on high, it is itself a formula of praise and of thanksgiving. But what if we see the meaning of alleluia as a simple call to reflection and mindfulness, a call to intentionality, a call to experience the awareness of our God. These are things for about which I will think as these twin new years grow older with the passage of time.
For now, I am prepared to sing Alleluia all the day long — at least I will try. How about you?