Catholics familiar with the calendar of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite will know that from Ash Wednesday the Church suppresses the Alleluia until it is heard again at the Easter Vigil. In the Calendar of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman the Alleluia is suppressed almost 3 weeks earlier on Septuagesima Sunday. Traditionally this suppression was accompanied by a depositio ceremony where a scroll containing the word Alleluia is buried and incensed on Septuagesima Sunday.
The word Septuagesima means “seventy” in Latin because the feast falls within the 7th decade before Easter Sunday. The period of penance beginning with Septuagesima Sunday allows the Catholic faithful to begin their period of penance in a milder form than they will undertake during lent and ease into their penance. The number 70 commemorates the time period that the Israelites were in captivity in Babylon (Jeremias 29:10). The period of time also reminds us of our short time in this world and Easter represents the world to come.
The practice of suppressing the Alleluia is a reminder of the Babylonian captivity as recorded in Psalm 136
Upon the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept: when we remembered Sion.
On the willows in the midst thereof we hung up our instruments.
For there they that led us into captivity required of us the words of songs. And they that carried us away, said: Sing ye to us a hymn of the songs of Sion.
How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land?
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