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Alleluia, Alleluia!

Photo credit: The Old Rugged Cross - Hymnal on an organ by Laura Seaman, Unsplash


Easter, Year C

John 20:1-18


 Make melody to the Lord in our hearts


We started the service with a song of alleluia, Jesus Christ Is Risen Today, with our deepest joy to celebrate the resurrection of the LORD from the grave. And, our gradual hymn for the Gospel reading, Who Is There on This Easter Morning, reflected the story of Easter morning where Mary Magdalene came to that first Easter garden.

The walls of our churches should reverberate with the sound of our singing at liturgy. We sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. We make “melody to the Lord in our hearts,” giving thanks to God at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord (Eph 5:18-20).

Music has the power to communicate messages and emotions that words alone do not suffice to express the depth of what the heart feels. Certainly, there are different forms of arts that connect us, yet, music is the universal language, which transcends all boundaries of people. An American civil rights activist and poet, Maya Angelou said, “Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” I resonate with her.

If you would like to learn more about hymns and to worship God with your voices, I encourage you to consider joining a choir rehearsal after the service.

Church music, however, is not simply a performance by a choir or a soloist, certainly not a background to accompany our prayer or an incentive to shout and clap our hands. Fundamentally, church music conveys liturgical and theological meanings beyond aesthetical and therapeutic components.


Octave in a liturgical sense


Although it is my open invitation for you to our parish choir activities, the primary reason why I began to talk about music is to explain a specific liturgical notion that relates to a musical term.

In music, an octave is the interval between one musical pitch and another with double its frequency. From the low C to the high C, for example, there are eight keys. The term octave is derived from the Latin word, “octo,” meaning eight. The same reason an octopus is called as such because it has eight legs.

In a liturgical usage, octave has two senses. In the first sense, it is the eighth day after a feast, reckoning inclusively, and so always falls on the same day of the week as the feast itself. In the second sense, the term is applied to the whole period of these eight days, during which certain major feasts are to be observed.

Today is the beginning of the Octave of Easter that ends with the next Sunday, also known as Low Sunday. According to the liturgical rubrics, the alleluia may be doubled at the dismissal during this period. And, after the Octave, the dismissal ends with a single alleluia. At Pentecost, on the fiftieth day from Easter Sunday, the double alleluia returns.

Consider that the liturgical year is like a music score in which you find a scale, a set of musical notes ordered by pitch, ascending and descending.

The Octave of Eater is important in Christian churches that celebrate it as it marks the beginning of Eastertide, also known as the Paschal season, which focuses on celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The use of the double alleluia is a way of emphasizing the importance of the feast and prolonging its celebration.  


The Lord is Risen


The Lord is risen. We must “lift up our gaze, remove the veil of sadness and sorrow from our eyes, and open our hearts to the hope that God brings” (Pope Francis). The resurrection of the Lord is the cure for all of us who may not always feel joyous.

Mary Magdalene who saw the empty tomb reports to the disciples. Two disciples came to the tomb, and they believed the tomb was empty. They returned to their homes without searching for the body. On the contrary, Mary stands weeping outside the tomb, desperate to know who moved Jesus’ body and where He was laid. Mary sees two angels in front of her, and she turns around and sees Jesus. Of course, she couldn’t believe her eyes at first, thinking he was a gardener.

The three synoptic Gospels involves Mary Magdalene and other women at the tomb, portraying them as being frightened (Lk 24:5), trembling and bewildered (Mk 16:8), afraid yet filled with joy (Mt 24:8). But in John’s Gospel, Mary boldly engages herself in a conversation with the angels, demanding Jesus’ body. And, Jesus appears, saying to her, “Do not hold on to me yet because I have not yet ascended to the Father” (Jn 20:17). Mary might have tried to reach him with her two arms wide open.

When people are amazed at something, that might be an indication of their lack of belief. If they are calmly reliant on eternal power, they would not be surprised by the work that God is going to reveal to them, because to them it is a sure thing. Our hearts should never fail but rely upon the unseen.

Who can roll the stone away? It is rolled away because Christ is risen. What is the difficulty that obstructs you in your pathway to heaven? What frightens or perplexes you or takes away confidence of victory when the risen Christ is standing behind you?

Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still” (Exo 14:13-14). Also, God’s plan for the glorious new creation was shown through Isaiah: “No more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it or the cry of distress” (Isa 65:19).

You will find the paschal mystery, the faith of the Gospel, when you receive Christ who is resurrected from the dead. You will not be amazed nor frightened. You will not be trembling nor bewildered. You will no longer weep for a dead, but you will believe that the Lord is alive, commissioning you to go forth into the world and tell everyone this amazing story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, with no delay.

Life is like musical notes, ascending and descending; it has pauses; sometimes there are repeats and a silent period, as well. Some notes are too high, and only a few can reach those notes. Endure all ups and downs. Stay long enough at the empty tomb, then you will see Christ, just as Mary Magdalene has seen Him (John 20).

God is our refuge and strength, our present help in times of trials and tribulations. The Lord is not in the tomb, but right here walking with you and speaking to you. We all have to pick up our own cross and march on. That’s our job.

And . . .

“All of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death. Therefore, we have been buried with Him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the death by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4).

Alleluia! Alleluia!