“From holy Easter until Pentecost without interruption let ‘Alleluia’ be said both in the Psalms and in the responsories.” —from The Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 15.
Last fall, my students and I read the Rule of St. Benedict, and I invited them to rewrite a chapter or two to suit their secular community of college students, an assignment they took up with verve. Chapter 15—when to sing the Alleluia—became a chapter on when it was permissible to chant, in Greek, the college cheer.
On Tuesday of Holy Week, I joined the parish choir for a rehearsal. I’m an irregular member these days, a willing substitute or extra when needed, and so hadn’t been to a rehearsal in weeks, long before the start of Lent. So when we flipped to James Chepponis’s setting of the “Alleluia,” and the organ and trumpet swirled around us, my breath caught in my mouth. Alleluia? I had barely thought the word in weeks, and now we were singing it in four parts, in Lent. St. Benedict’s Rule flashed through my mind. Wait, I wanted to say, until “holy Easter”!
Holy Easter duly arrived, and with it, a delightful explosion of Alleluias. But I still wondered at my discomfort with those out-of-season Alleluias. I was reminded of St. Ignatius’s caution to retreatants in the Spiritual Exercises (#127) to “not read any mystery that is not to be used on that day or at that hour, lest the consideration of one mystery interfere with the contemplation of the other.” It can be hard to hear God’s voice in a cacophony, even a cacophony of sacred mysteries.
In these last few days of the school year, there is a steady stream of student visitors to my office, along with a pile of grading that grows each time I take my eyes off it, all leavened with the occasional administrative crisis. It’s tempting to try to juggle all the demands at once, squeezing a bit of grading in a meeting or keeping one eye on my e-mail while a student confesses her struggles with electrochemistry. The memory of those grating Alleluias is reminding me to wait, not anticipate who or what is coming next, that I might hear God clearly in each knock on my door, in each paper I grade, and even in each e-mail that slides into my inbox. Waiting, it seems, is not just for Advent. Alleluia!