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The magic word

Greg Ruehlmann | Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Does anyone remember “Pee Wee’s Playhouse?”

I certainly do. Perhaps I shouldn’t be admitting this for fear it will reveal my youthful nerdiness; but honestly, for a kid who played with Transformers until age twelve, watching Pee Wee’s show was the least of my problems.

For me, that seminal kids’ show of the 1980s was unforgettable for many reasons. But the best thing of all about Pee Wee’s Playhouse was the “magic word.” Basically, at the beginning of the show, Pee Wee let us kids in on a little secret. There was a special word that day, a word that everyone else didn’t know about. He would tell us the word, and it was always something common like “fun” or “happy.” Then Pee Wee would hang out with some of his friends (such as a talking chair and a live pterodactyl).

Here’s the fun part: anytime anybody said the secret “magic word,” the whole place would go insane. There was no containing the joy in Pee Wee Herman’s house when the magic word was uttered. All the Pee Wees and puppets and friends would join together to yell, and I quote:

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

So why am I telling you all this? Because right now we, the Church, are celebrating the most wonderful season of the year. Since the Easter Vigil, everything has been about joy and excitement and new life. And we’ve witnessed the return of a magical word that’s been absent from our vocabulary for a while. It’s a word that expresses all our jubilation as believers that Christ is risen. This word is “ALLELUIA!”

During the Easter season, we repeatedly hear “Alleluia” and “Halleluia” and every imaginable variation. And with good reason, too. The word captures our elation in one fell swoop as we shout it out to the Lord who has triumphed over sin and death. Plus, we have 40 days worth of Alleluias to catch up on. Saying it is the one thing that all of us give up every year for Lent. We do this to mark the sadness and gravity of the time leading up to Christ’s death. But once we commemorate Jesus’ resurrection, all heaven should break loose.

Alleluia is the perfect summation of our response to the Lord’s victory. It proclaims our wonder and ecstasy. It announces the gratitude with which we approach the risen Jesus. And in its simplicity, it also makes no effort to explain the total mystery of what Christ accomplished for us. It leaves the mystery a mystery, but leaves the celebration to us.

Perhaps though, alleluia has something working against it. It sounds old-fashioned. It’s borrowed from a different language, and so maybe we don’t connect to it the same way we do with other words. Well for those of you who feel this way, allow me to do some translating. In modern lingo, alleluia suggests all of the following:

1) Yipee!

2) Hooray!

3) WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Like Pee Wee’s magic word, alleluia has been under wraps. But now that it’s out of the bag again, just like the magic word, it should set us off into a fit of euphoria. How can we keep from rejoicing in the incredible story of Easter?

In this joyful season, we need to ask ourselves, “How are we showing our joy and gratitude this Easter?” This is not the time to be lukewarm about anything. Nor is it any longer a time to focus on the graveness of Lent. The sun is shining, the long winter has thawed, and so too has the power of death over us. God has given all this to us, and what He asks in return is that we throw a fifty- day party for His Son. Pretty incredible deal, huh?

The magic word of the day is alleluia. It should be the word of every day until the Church leads us back into Lent. But in the meantime, we have some celebrating to do. Alleluia is back and badder than ever. And we should live with it always on our lips.

Greg Ruehlmann works in the office of Campus Ministry. He can be contacted at ruehlmann.1@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.