Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"The Baffled King Composing Hallelujah"

In a not-too-ironic way I’ve been listening to the song “Hallelujah.”In this case I’m referring to the song written by Leonard Cohen. I suppose that his quiet, deep voice creates (perhaps) the perfect mood for the song. All the same, there are a number of different covers of the song. One particular version by Rufus Wainwright (the version from the movie Shrek) was noted as being “purifying and almost liturgical.” Other versions, which have at times had different lyrics from the original, all have their own particular qualities. This phenomena, Cohen offers, is because “there are many different hallelujahs…”
As I write this, I listen to some of these different versions of the song. Regardless of the version, I’m struck continually by the words: “It’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.” Maybe it’s just clever phrasing, but the song smacks of honesty. Whether there is an almost joyful air, or a soulful dirge, there is no escaping the words: “it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.”
I think even in the midst of the Easter season, this may be a realistic cry of our hearts—one which isn’t afraid to encompass the brokenness and lack in our world. It’s the Hallelujah that breaks into the cold of a hospital room, and seems less incongruous in a hurting world. It’s a sound of praise that can be lifted by lips which mourn…but it is at the very same instant a hallelujah. And perhaps because of its honesty there is no question of its resounding praise.
Perhaps it’s an odd thing to be writing in such a somber way in the Easter Season…maybe this would have been better suited for Lent, but then I wouldn’t have been able to use the word “Hallelujah.” But at the same time, Eastertide is a time for Hallelujahs, “many different Hallelujahs.” Because from the broken to the bandaged-up Hallelujah is the song of the victorious—albeit the faulted and the hurting at the same time. It’s the song of those who would never deny Christ, but are troubled by doubting hearts. It’s the song for every condition of life, really…
So why write about broken hallelujahs in Easter? I do it because to make sense of any of the human condition, we look to Christ as the perfect victim. We look to him as the Resurrection and the Life and know that somehow in him everything will be redeemed somehow—even our sorrow—by his participating in it with us. In Christ we find solace from the storms of life, not by virtue of him being indestructible, rather because even in his resurrection he still bears the wounds of his ruination. He even holds those wounds gloriously out-stretched to welcome the prodding hands of our disbelief.
I also write in this way knowing that the mystery of our faith in Christ is far deeper and stronger than we sometimes realize. I think that we even forget that when our faith seems dim, we can trust that others will have faith for us. I think it’s because there are many different hallelujahs, and because of Christ’s love for us, even the cold and broken ones (the really earthy and honest ones) count most.

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