Next Sunday is Septuagesima, the beginning of that period of Pre-Lent, consisting of three Sundays that precede and prepare the Church (according to the Ordinariate and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite) for the great penitential season of Lent. The liturgical character of this period anticipates Lent by omitting the Alleluia and the Gloria from Mass, and the Te Deum from the Divine Office, and by clothing the church and her ministers in violet.
The ancient hymn below, translated by the eminent Anglican hymnographer, John Mason Neale, may be sung on this Sunday before Septuagesima, so as to emphasise the bittersweet loss of the Alleluia from the Sacred Liturgy; a word dear to the hearts of Christians, that will not now be heard again until the Easter Vigil. Here follows Neale’s own explanation:
‘The Latin Church, as it is well known, forbade, as a general role, the use of Alleluia in Septuagesima. Hence, in more than one ritual, its frequent repetition on the Saturday before Septuagesima, as if by way of farewell to its employment. This custom was enjoined in the German Dioceses by the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle, in 817: but various reasons render it probable that the following hymn is not of earlier date than the thirteenth century. The farewell to Alleluia in the Mozarabic rite is so lovely that I give it here. After the Alleluia Perenne, the Capitula are as follows:— “Alleluia in heaven and in earth; it is perpetuated in heaven, it is sung in earth. There it resounds everlastingly: here sweetly. There happily; here concordantly. There ineffably; here earnestly. There without syllables; here in musical numbers. There from the Angels; here from the people. Which, at the birth of Christ the Lord, not only in heaven, but the earth, did the Angels sing; while they proclaimed, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will”. The Benediction:— “Let that Alleluia which is ineffably sung in heaven, be more efficaciously declared in your praises. Amen. unceasingly sung by Angels, let it here be uttered brokenly by all faithful people. Amen. That it, as it is called the praise of God, and as it imitates you in that praise, may cause you to be enrolled as denizens of the eternal mansion. Amen”. The Lauda:— “Thou shalt go, O Alleluia; Thou shalt have a prosperous journey, O Alleluia. R. And again with joy thou shalt return to us, O Alleluia. V. For in their hands they shall bear thee up; lest thou hurt thy foot against a stone. R. And again with joy thou shalt return to us, O Alleluia”’.
Mediaeval Hymns and Sequences, 1867, edited by John Mason Neale, 1818-1866
to the tune Tantum Ergo, The English Hymnal, no. 63
Fr Lee Kenyon