Throughout the liturgical year, the Church makes certain changes to the Mass to reflect the liturgical season. Next to the change in the color of the priest’s vestments, the absence of the Alleluia during Lent is probably the most obvious.
The Meaning of the Alleluia
The Alleluia comes to us from Hebrew, and it means “praise Yahweh.” Traditionally, it has been seen as the chief term of praise of the choirs of angels, as they worship around the throne of God in Heaven. It is, therefore, a term of great joy, and our use of the Alleluia during Mass is a way of participating in the angels’ worship. It is 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
In truth, we live in what is called the Now and the Not Yet. The Kingdom of God has come. But its full appearance in not yet fully revealed. During Lent, our focus is on the fullness of the Kingdom which is still to come, not on the partial Kingdom having come. The readings in the Masses for Lent and in the Daily Offices focus heavily on the spiritual journey of Old Testament Israel toward the coming of Christ and the salvation of mankind in His death and resurrection. We, too, are on a spiritual journey toward the Second Coming and our future life in Heaven. In order to emphasize that journey, the Church during Lent removes the Alleluia from the Mass. We no longer sing with the choirs of angels; instead, we acknowledge our sins and practice repentance so that one day we may again have the privilege of worshiping God as the angels do.
The Return of the Alleluia at Easter
That day comes triumphantly on Easter Sunday – or, rather, at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night when the priest chants a triple Alleluia before he reads the Gospel and everyone present responds with a triple Alleluia. 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 “Alleluia!”
Why Veil the Crosses?
Our Lord promised his disciples a place in His Kingdom. He promised them a new life. Yet He continued to talk about a Cross. The disciples tried to ignore it until it could no longer be denied. How could these promises be fulfilled if He who made them was to be crucified? Christ insisted the Cross was a necessity. For them it was a terrifying mystery. The veils symbolize this dark mystery.