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In the traditional liturgy of the Christian West, this coming Sunday marks the beginning of a three-week period of preparation for Lent known as Septuagesima. It is a penitential season during which the Alleluia, due to its paschal and celebratory character, is not sung. 

In the Monastero di San Benedetto in Monte, on Septuagesima Sunday the monks solemnly sing the Alleluia one last time. Then, they bury a parchment bearing the word near the vineyard. It is never unearthed, since the word comes back to life in him who rises on Easter.

From every mountain, hill and vale
Let Alleluia ring!
And may each woman, man and child
This Alleluia sing!

Alas! But little time is left
With Alleluia near;
We from thee soon shall have to part,
Oh, Alleluia dear!

Until Septuagesima
Will Alleluia last;
From that grave moment on we must
From Alleluia fast.

Then, in woe we shall, bereft
Of Alleluia mourn,
And clad with deepest sorrow wail,
From Alleluia torn.

Then will our drooping eyes, deprived
Of Alleluia weep,
And we’ll in penance far away
From Alleluia keep.

Then will our days be difficult,
When Alleluia flees,
For better heaven’s realm the heart
With Alleluia sees.

In one sole manner can we with
No Alleluia cope,
If on this journey we go forth
In Alleluia’s hope.

Thus, we must always mindful be,
With Alleluia ceased,
That on that Day of days we shall
With Alleluia feast.

On that most sacred Day our mouths
Will Alleluia fill,
And joy our hearts, for nothing will
Our Alleluia kill.

Then jubilation will come forth
In Alleluia’s sounds,
And merrily repeat itself
In Alleluia rounds.

Then filled our every limb shall be
With Alleluia’s might,
And on all faces mirth shall shine
With Alleluia bright.

Then nothing will our sturdy hearts
With Alleluia fear,
When finally, after the race
We Alleluia hear.

Then, rapt in bliss, we’ll dwell secure
In Alleluia’s spell,
And every tongue from East to West
Will Alleluia tell.

Then shall the music of the spheres
With Alleluia rhyme,
And heaven will its rhythm move
To Alleluia’s time.

For then, O Christ, the mournful tomb
Will Alleluia burst,
And Thou, Triumphant Victor, shall
Sing Alleluia first!

But, for now, until we hear
That Alleluia bell,
We must with mournful joy thee bid
Fare, Alleluia, well!

The author is a monk of the monastery of San Benedetto in Monte, Norcia, Italy.

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