The Alleluia is chanted before the Gospel lesson in the Eucharistic liturgies of the various Christian liturgical rites. Alleluia will be solemnly chanted at other times also, usually in conjunction with Psalm verses.


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

The Alleluia is part of the Proper of the Mass in the Roman Rite. It follows the Gradual and comes before the reading of the Gospel (or the Sequence, if one is used).

It was used in many ways in early liturgies. It was especially favored 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 sung at the end of every chant, and an Alleluia replaces the Gradual in the mass, so that there are two of them in the service. It is also added to the "Ite, Missa est" at Mass and "Benedicamus Domino" at Lauds and Vespers during the Octave of Easter. The word, however, is omitted from Septuagesima Sunday until Holy Saturday; at these times the chant Alleluia is either replaced by a Tract, or omitted. At the beginning of each Hour in the traditional Divine Office, the "Alleluia" after the Gloria Patri is replaced with "Laus tibi, Domine, rex aeternae gloriae" ("Praise to thee, O Lord, king of eternal glory"), which also replaces the "Alleluia" before the gospel in the revised rite of Mass.

The Alleluia is one of the responsorial chants in the Mass. It opens with the cantor singing "Alleluia," after which the choir repeats it, and adds a long melisma on the final vowel (called a "jubilus"). (The repeat is notated in the Liber Usualis with the Roman numeral "ij," and then continues with the jubilus.) The cantor then sings the main part of the verse, and the choir joins in on the final line. At the end, the opening Alleluia is repeated, but instead of the choir repeating the word, they repeat only the jubilus. When a Sequence follows the Alleluia, this final repeat is omitted, as it was in other cases in the Middle Ages.

The musical style of the Alleluia is generally ornate, but often within a narrow range. The Alleluia for Christmas Eve, for instance, has an ambitus of only a perfect fifth (but this example is rather extreme). Alleluias were frequenly troped, both with added music and text. It is believed that some early Sequences derived from syllabic text being added to the jubilus, and may be named after the opening words of the Alleluia verse. Alleluias were also among the more frequently used chants to create early organa, such as in the Winchester Troper.

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 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).

The Alleluia is intoned in one of the two following manners (depending upon the number of Prokeimena):

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 Great Lent and 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 chated at the Divine Liturgy, though sometimese 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.


* Hoppin, Richard. "Medieval Music". New York: Norton, 1978.

ee also

*Gregorian Chant
*Easter season

External links

*Catholic Encyclopedia article, s.v., [ Alleluia]
* [ Photo—Chanting the Alleluia] Russian Orthodox

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