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CNP Feedback -
Picardy on Palm Sunday

Q. Dear CNP:

I would love to be able to use "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" for our choir at Communion on Palm Sunday, however the last verse uses the word "Alleluia." While I understand that 'Alleluias' are not used/allowed during Lent, I wondered if there was an exception for this Feast Day.

P.S. O'Keigh

A. Dear Mr. O'Keigh:

Thank you for your question about the hymn, "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence," sung to the tune Picardy.

Your basic question is, "Are there any exceptions to the No-Alleluias-during-Lent rule?".

The answer is simple — there are NO exceptions. And this dictum is even more universally accepted than not singing Christmas carols during Advent. The Alleluia, a joyful Hebrew exclamation meaning, "Praise Yahweh," is eliminated from Lent as a kind of "aural fast." There are other Lenten liturgical practices, like not singing the Gloria, not using solo organ music, and not decorating with flowers, which do get modified on solemnities (March 19 & March 25) and feasts which may fall during Lent. And while there is still no Gloria at this Mass, the Fourth Sunday of Lent [Laetare Sunday] can see flowers and solo organ music used. But never, NEVER, is Alleluia said or sung from Ash Wednesday until it returns gloriously to announce the wondrous Resurrection Gospel at the Easter Vigil.

So… what to do about "Let All Mortal Flesh"? You've got several options:

  1. Sing only the first 3 verses, stopping short of Verse 4, which begins, "At his feet the six-winged seraph..."
  2. Sing Verse 4, but change the last two phrases that contain Alleluias to:

    Ho-ly, Ho-ly, | Ho-ly, | Lord____ | God | | Ho-ly, Ho-ly | God of__ | hosts.

  3. Sing Verses 1-3 of "Let All Mortal Flesh" as written. Then substitute one (or more) verses of another hymn with the same meter, in this case: Two beautifully appropriate hymns come to mind: Tantum ergo Sacramentum ["Humbly Let Us Voice Our Homage"] and Pange lingua ["Praise We Christ's Immortal Body"]. There are many different English translations of both these Latin hymns. If you're looking to add only one verse to the first three of "Let All Mortal Flesh," I'd suggest this one:

    Glory be to God the Father, Praise to his eternal Son,
    Adoration to the Spirit, Bond of love, in Godhead one!
    Blest be God by all creation Joyously while ages run!

    You could also close with the first verse of either of these two hymns in Latin as your fourth verse.

I hope this helps. When solutions are this easy, there's no reason for breaking (or even bending) the rules.

Have a great Lent!

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications
Article written 15 February 2014

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