The Church sings ‘Alleluia’ for the departed as a symbol of joy and victory over death – LifeSite

(LifeSiteNews) — “Thou art my portion, O Lord, Alleluia, in the land of the living, Alleluia, Alleluia. Bring forth my soul out of prison, to confess to thy Name; in the land of the living, Alleluia, Alleluia. Glory and honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, world without end, Amen: in the land of the living, Alleluia, Alleluia.” (Mozarabic Missal)

Such is the opening chant for the departed, in the Mozarabic Missal. With the Greeks, in like manner, no word is of more frequent recurrence in the Office of the Dead, than the Alleluia. (GOAR, nota 6 ad Officium Exsequiarum in Euchologio) Moreover, both Greece and Spain are but observing what was once a general practice throughout the Church.

St. Jerome tells us how, at the death of Fabiola, all the Roman people assembled, the chant of psalms echoed on all sides, and the sublime Alleluia filled the temples till it shook their gilded roofs. (Jerome, ad Oceanum. De morte Fabiolæ) Two centuries later, the story of St. Radegonde’s funeral written by her daughter Baudonivia, proves that, if submissive tears were not forbidden to the survivors and might at times even flow abundantly, the custom in Gaul was, nevertheless, the same as that of Rome. (Baudonivia, Vita Radegundis 28),

And again with regard to a later period, the Manuscript of Rheims quoted by Dom Hugh Ménard in his notes on the Gregorian Sacramentary, (Nota 680) prescribes as a prelude to the burial prayers, the chanting of the Psalm In exitu Israel de Ægypto, with Alleluia and Antiphon.

When St. Anthony buried in the desert the body of St. Paul the first hermit, the biographer of the latter relates that, in accordance with Christian tradition, Anthony sang hymns as well as psalms. Such was actually the universal Christian tradition, identical in all lands. (Hieron. Life of St Paul, 16)

St. John Chrysostom remarks the same fact, and explains it thus:

Tell me, are they not conquerors, the dead whom we carry in procession with shining torches and the singing of hymns? Yes; we praise God and give Him thanks; for He crowns the departed one; He has put an end to his labor; and He keeps him near Himself, free from all fear. Seek no other explanation for these hymns and psalms: they are an expression of joy. (Chrys. In epist. Ad Hebr. Homil. iv.)

St. Dionysius speaks in the same strain, in his book on the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy. After alluding to the joy of the dying Christian, as he sees approaching the end of his struggle and an eternal security, he adds:

The relatives of the deceased, his friends in God and in holiness, proclaim him blessed for having conquered at last; and they address their songs of thanksgiving to the heavenly Author of the victory. Praying that they themselves may obtain a similar lot, they bear him to the hierarch the distributor of the holy crowns, to whom it belongs to perform the sacred rites prescribed with regard to those who have slept in the Lord. (Dionysius. De Eccles. Hierarch. Cap 7:1, 2:1-3)

Tomorrow we will give some examples of these last honors paid by the Church to her children.

Certain Churches borrow the following stanzas from the tenth Song of the Cathemerinon, which gave us yesterday the Mozarabic Hymn for the Dead.


Cease now each sad complaint; ye mothers check your tears; let no man mourn the pledges he has given: for this death is the restoration of life.

What mean these sculptured marbles, and these fair monuments, save that what is committed to them is not dead, but laid to sleep?

For this body which we see lying lifeless, yet a little while and it will seek once more the companionship of the spirit that has fled on high.

Quickly shall the time come, when friendly life shall make these cold embers glow; and animating them with circling blood, shall take back her former dwelling.

The motionless corpses, that have lain corrupting in their graves, shall be caught up into the swift air, united to the same souls as before.

Even thus do the dry seeds, dead and buried, become green blades; and, springing up from the sward, recall the former ears.

Receive now, O earth, this deposit into thy care, and cherish it in thy tender bosom: ’tis the form of a man I place in thee, noble remains I entrust to thee.

This was once the home of a spirit breathed from the mouth of its Creator; Christ ruled these members, and his holy wisdom dwelt therein.

Then shelter the body confided to thee: he who made it will not forget it, but will ask back the gifts he had given, and the likeness of his own countenance.

Soon the promised time will come, when God shall fulfill all hope; then thou must needs open thy bosom, and restore this form such as I give it thee. Amen.

The following Responsory is the last of the third Nocturn in the short Office of the dead per annum. After it we give an ancient prayer, found in the Ambrosian rite, and appropriated to deceased benefactors and relatives. (Oratio super sindonem, in Missa quotidiana pro defunctis fratribus, sororibus, propinquis et benefactoribus.)


℟. Deliver me, O Lord, from the ways of hell, who hast broken the brazen gates, and hast visited hell, and hast given light to them, that they might behold thee * who were in the pains of darkness.

℣. Crying, and saying: Thou art come, O our Redeemer. * Who were.

℣. Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine on them. * Who were.


O God, the life of the living, the hope of the dying, the salvation of all that trust in thee, mercifully grant that the souls of thy servants and handmaids, delivered from the darkness of our mortality, may rejoice with thy Saints in perpetual light. Through our Lord.

The following prose by Adam of St. Victor, though often assigned to other feasts, was sung in several places to celebrate all the saints.


Let the Church on earth commemorate the joys of her mother the Church in heaven: and while she celebrates annual feasts, let her sigh for those which are eternal.

May the mother assist her daughter in this valley of sorrows: and may our heavenly guardians be at our side in the battle.

The world, the flesh, and the devils wage their several warfares; at the onslaught of so many terrors, the heart’s tranquility is disturbed.

All this brood detests our feast-days, and with united force, endeavors to drive peace from the earth.

Here all is confusion; hope, fear, sadness, joy are commingled: in heaven, scarce half an hour of silence is kept.

Oh! how happy is that city, where there is unceasing festivity! and how joyful is that assembly where care is utterly unknown!

No sickness there, nor old age; no deceit, nor terror of foes; but all one voice of joyful souls, and all one burning love of hearts.

There the angelic citizens in their triple hierarchy rejoice to be subject to a Monarch who is both One and Three.

They admire, and faint not in contemplating, the God upon whom they gaze; they enjoy him, and are not satiated, for the enjoyment brings new thirst.

There are our fathers, ranked according to their merit; all darkness is now dispelled, and in God’s light they see light.

These Saints, whose solemnity is celebrated today, behold with unveiled face the king in his glory.

There is the Queen of virgins, far above the highest choirs; may she, before the Lord, excuse our guilty falls.

And after this present misery, may the grace of Christ, through the intercession of the Saints, lead us to the same glory! Amen.

This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Guéranger (1841-1875). LifeSiteNews is grateful to The Ecu-Men website for making this classic work easily available online.