Easter Sunday (Year B)

The Resurrection is the seal and the proof that sin and death threw all their weight at Jesus but still they could not consume him.

Happy Easter! Today’s reflection is a little different from previous weeks. Just as at Christmas, there are different options for attending the Easter Sunday Mass. The Easter Vigil on Saturday evening provides a wealth of readings from the Scriptures, which tell the whole story of salvation history.

But, as there are so many different combinations of readings you might hear on this most precious and joyful of days, I’ve chosen today to give you a reflection on one of the elements that unite them all: the word ‘Alleluia’.


Alleluia! This one little word has been banished since Ash Wednesday! In years gone by, there was a symbolic ritual in which a board with the word ‘alleluia’ written on it would be buried before Lent as a reminder of its noticeable absence over the coming season. In effect, we fast from using this word, just as we fast from food.

That great fast comes to an end with the solemn Easter Vigil. This precious little word that’s been absent for so long returns as a whisper and then grows in strength and volume until it’s a shout that echoes in our ears and hearts!

But what does it mean? Why is it so important?

Hallelujah appears many times in the Psalms and in Greek as alleluia in the New Testament. In Hebrew, we can break the word into two halves: ‘hallu’ and ‘yah’.

The first part of the word ‘hallu’ means ‘praise’ in the form of a call, with a connection to song. The second part is a shortened form of God’s name: Yahweh. In short, then, the word means ‘praise God!’ often in song and when said among other people is a call for them to praise God as well.

I wonder if we ever stop to ask the question, why should we praise God? Or, even, what does it mean to praise God?

In English the word is related to worth, perhaps you can hear an echo of the words ‘prize’ and ‘price’. It’s a useful reminder because when we praise God, we acknowledge him to be who he is, and we honour him as worthy of worship. We can hear that in the great joyful hymn, also making its reappearance at Easter, which we call the Te Deum:

‘We praise you, O God:
We acclaim you as the Lord’

We can also hear it in the Book of Revelation:

‘Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God’ (Revelation 5:9)

This wonderful little passage is really helpful for us today: Jesus (the Lamb) is worthy – that is, the object of praise – because he was slain on the Cross and in his blood ransomed us as a people for God.

Jesus, though, didn’t just die. In the Book of Revelation, again, we read that he stands as a Lamb as if slain. He bears the marks of his crucifixion, but he is raised to new and glorified resurrected life, a foretaste of our own life to come with him.

We can stand in the Church on Easter Sunday and sing “Alleluia!” at the top of our lungs because we are a people ransomed, paid for, delivered, and won for the Father by the blood of our praiseworthy risen Lamb, Jesus Christ!

The Resurrection is the seal and the demonstration of his work in redeeming us; it’s proof that sin and death threw all their weight at him, exhausted in the barrage, and still could not consume him. We are met with an empty tomb as we gather in the Church for the vigil or on Easter Sunday itself. The light of hope begins to warm our hearts, and the cry should bubble up within us as an unstoppable tide: ‘Worthy!’ ‘Alleluia!’

This is our privilege and duty as Christians; to praise the God who sets us free and calls us to himself. Gratitude, wonder, love, and awe drive us to raise our hands and declare him to be praised. Alleluia!


  • Praise as prayer: CCC 2639 (Catechism of the Catholic Church)