By Ben Cachiaras
I recently heard a man explaining the origin of the word hallelujah, and it instantly triggered a powerful memory of my Grandpa Cachiaras.
Hallelujah! That was his word.
When I was little I thought he made it up. I thought he owned it. He would say it, shout it, and sing it all the time.
He was a character. Anyone who passed through the halls of Minnesota Bible College between the years of 1919 and 1983 will tell you that. They heard him sing “Hallelujah” out loud, frequently—in the halls, in class, across the campus.
He was a fixture there all those years, and though he taught many subjects, the thing most may remember is his praise. And that word.
For the record, the word hallelujah comes from the Hallel psalms—Psalms 113 to 118—because all of those psalms have that Hebrew word in them. Hallel means “praise,” and jah is the short form of the Lord’s name, Yahweh. So hallelujah means “praise the Lord!”
And that is what Grandpa Cachiaras spent his life doing: praising the Lord!
In the 1940s he helped establish a Christian camp in northern Minnesota, nestled among the pines on the shore of Long Lake. Pine Haven Christian Assembly welcomed thousands of campers over the years, and all of them knew Grandpa, because Grandpa was always there. He had a cabin right on the grounds, so he was part of the place for generations.
When he showed up at chapel for evening vespers, the song leader knew what that meant: we’d soon all be singing with Grandpa, his raspy Greek brogue somehow towering above all our voices as we crooned the words to a song you old-timers will recognize:
We praise Thee, O God!
For the Son of Thy Love,
For Jesus who died,
And is now gone above.
And then the powerful refrain where the volume and pitch went up a couple notches:
Hallelujah! Thine the glory;
Hallelujah! Thine the glory;
Revive us again.
I love that song. And I loved to sing it with him. Typing those words reconstructs a memory so clear I can hear the crack in his voice. “Hallelujah!” That was his word. Praise the Lord.
It sprang from a bursting heart, so keenly aware and grateful for the saving grace of Jesus. He couldn’t hold it in. His life was a shout of praise.
Twenty-five years ago he went to be with Jesus. He was 90-plus. Something tells me the first thing he did as he entered the Lord’s presence was sing it out to Jesus: “Hallelujah! Thine the glory!”
And then somehow, I figure he got everyone to join in. Heaven has never been the same.
And neither have I. I often think about him, and remember his praise. Sometimes I feel disappointed that I don’t seem able to live with a “hallelujah” on my lips like he did. He didn’t have more to be grateful for; he was just better at recognizing how good Jesus is.
So today, as I remember him, I’m singing his song. Because Jesus is alive. He is risen. And that means Grandpa is alive, too. And even though he sings there, and I here, we’re singing together in the presence of the same risen Lord Jesus.
Ben Cachiaras, a CHRISTIAN STANDARD contributing editor, is senior pastor with Mountain Christian Church, Joppa, Maryland.