Why Don’t Roman Catholics Sing the Gloria or Alleluia During Lent?
Throughout the liturgical year, the Catholic Church makes certain changes to the Mass to reflect the different liturgical seasons. Besides the change in the color of the priest’s vestments, we do not say or sing the Gloria during Lent and Advent and do not say or sing Alleluia during Lent. So, why don’t Roman Catholics sing the Alleluia or the Gloria during Lent?
The Meaning of the Alleluia
The Alleluia comes to us from Hebrew, and it means “praise Yahweh.” Traditionally, it was understood to be the main term of praise used by the choirs of angels, as they worship around the throne of God in Heaven. Likewise, the Gloria is known as the “Angelic Hymn” because it contains the words sung from the Heavens by the angels on the night of Christ’s birth. They are, therefore, words expressing great joy, and our use of the Gloria and the Alleluia during Mass is a way of participating in the worship the angels. They are also a reminder that the Kingdom of Heaven is already established on earth, in the form of the Church, and that our participation in Mass is a participation in Heaven.
Our Lenten Exile
During Lent, however, our focus is on the Kingdom coming, not on the Kingdom already having come. The readings in the Masses for Lent focus heavily on the spiritual journey of the Old Testament toward the coming of Christ, and the salvation of mankind in His death on Good Friday and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
We Christians today are on a spiritual journey as well, toward the Second Coming of Christ and our future life in Heaven. In order to emphasize the pilgrimage nature of that journey, the Catholic Church, during Lent, removes the Alleluia and Gloria from the Mass. We no longer sing with the choirs of angels; instead, we acknowledge our moments of weakness and failures and the need to practice repentance and the need for further purification, so that eventually we may once again experience the joy of worshiping God as the angels do.
The Return of the Alleluia at Easter
That moment comes on Easter Sunday, or rather, at the Easter Vigil, on Holy Saturday night, when the Gloria is sung with candles lit and bells rung and there is a triple Alleluia before the Gospel. The Lord is risen; the Kingdom has come; our joy is complete; and, in concert with the angels and saints, we greet the risen Lord with shouts of “Glory to God in the highest” and “Alleluia!”