‘Hallelujah’… from ‘Hallalu’ – ‘praise’, ‘Yah’ – the Lord.
Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ has been sung in many contexts. Here it’s sung at a wedding. There’s love, emotion, smiles, tears, the grand family occasion. The hallelujah of gratitude and hope seems highly appropriate.
I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?…
It’s in a big, beautiful church. Promises are made before the God who gives his blessing on the marriage. The hallelujah of the God of love seems highly appropriate
Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah
And as two examples of love Cohen chooses Bible stories – David and Bathsheba, and Samson and Delilah. Both were tales of at best confused love at worst moral failure. Are power, lust and adultery the place for hallelujah?
Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It’s not a cry you can hear at night
It’s not somebody who has seen the light
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah
I return from the wedding to myself. My love and faith… I’ve been through times of doubt… both my experience, demonstration and example are imperfect… I identify with the cold and broken hallelujah.
A repeated image throughout this song is the crucifix. I’m reminded of the one who demonstrated his love not through romance or marriage but through suffering and death. His words: ‘Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.’
Here I see the love, commitment, life-long promises that evoke ‘hallelujah’.