Monday, October 1, 2012

The Three-Fold Hallelujah

As part of my spiritual regimen, in meditation, I've been chanting the Three-fold Hallelujah. It goes like this: "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah," then a pause.

I know, just seeing it in print like that doesn't tell you much. But here's how it sounds: The first Hallelujah is said in a strong voice at a particular pitch. The second is completely identical to the first. Then the third drops the "-lujah" part down a note, making it lower. Followed by a pause that is silence.

Whether this does me any good, objectively, I don't really have the standing to make that determination. However, subjectively, I know it does. In recent days, I've seen the sky ripped in half and great visions of heaven. But enough about that.

So, I was describing all this to my minister, who listened carefully and respectfully, then tried it himself, "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah." He paused and did it again, and said, "Yes, that sounds like a very good thing to say. I like it."

Then he asked me a strange question that I wasn't expecting: "Which Hallelujah of the three do you like the most?"

Hmm, that's really a tough question, isn't it? because I think each one has its good points. And I'd hate to have to pick just one, because what would be the point? It's the Three-fold Hallelujah, not a chant with only one Hallelujah. I looked at him, searching his face for a clue; was he putting me on? But his face, as usual, when he sets it in a determined way, was stolid, unflinching, unwavering, and, I hate to say it, without a hint of mercy. I felt a trickle of sweat burst forth on my forehead, and knew I was probably flushed, and suddenly seemingly vulnerable under his piercing, unrelenting stare.

Since I couldn't escape, I began reasoning it out: The first and second Hallelujahs are identical. The third is the only one distinctively on its own. So what it comes down to is this: Do I prefer of the ones that are doubly pronounced or the one standing alone? And beyond that fact, what of the sound? Do I prefer the first and second's tone or the third's? Does doubling make the first and second tones less precious, playing on the third's distinctiveness? Or is the third somehow inferior because it does stand alone? The first and second seem like they're being said as a progression worthy of eternity, with a single focus of concentration, and even bliss. The third, one might argue, in its denouement is something of a let-down, even an unfortunate claim that eternity is not real, and an expression that only finiteness (it being the third of three) is real. That would be depressing, although I'd have to argue, every good thing has to end, except, of course, eternity itself, presumably.

So I'm thinking, thinking, thinking, worrying, stewing, busting a vein over my answer. I look over and, in the meantime, Pastor has turned away and is filing a bushel basket of old sermons. He sees me return to life, and I tell him my choice: I prefer the second Hallelujah. Even though it's identical to the first, still it has a place in the order. It repeats the first, true, but it also leads to the third. And even though the third is the third, with all the problems that might suggest, without a third you wouldn't have three. And the fact that it is the denouement and with its lower note is something of a let-down, it does make a legitimate third, whereas a third identical to the first and the second would simply terminate the sequence ambiguously. As it is, in relation to the third, the second is the last note of real strength. So the middle one, for me that's where it's happening.

I urge you to consider this as part of your own spiritual life, the Three-fold Hallelujah. But it might be best not to tell anyone, so they don't put you on the spot.

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