Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Deconstructing Jerusalem: Lamentations 2 with poem by Haya Gaon, Sweet Death

Daily Readings
Sirach 32:1-23, Jeremiah 40:1-41:3, Lamentations 2, Baruch 2

Daily Text: Lamentations 2

De-constructing Jerusalem
Each of the poems was probably written soon after 587 B.C., the Fall of Jerusalem. This second one in Lamentations 2, is far more logical and less psychological than the first one. Following Delbert Hillers [532:42] the primary theme is that the LORD was responsible for the Fall and its aftermath. The LORD himself has thrown Israel down from the heavens to the earth. He has cut off Israel’s pride and power, become himself the warrior and become like an enemy. He destroyed his own dwelling place and deliberately de-constructed Jerusalem (2:8).

Beginning in 2:11 the poet or the King speaks and is completely upset, bitter, his own bile flowing out of him for the infants and babies are crying in the streets for bread and wine. He agonizes as to how he can comfort them for their ruin is vast and he knows not who can bring healing. There is, in his address a flashback, one that suggests that the prophets had whitewashed Judah’s iniquity, rather than pointing it out, even though pointing it out could have served to lead to repentance and the restoration of their fortunes. He goes on to describe the way the neighboring countries are mocking the Judahites, they and their ‘perfect’ city, their fountain of joy. Their enemies rejoice for the day they have longed for has come and the LORD has done what he purposed.

In the third division of this poem the poet points the people in the right direction. He encourages their tears of repentance and confession. Pour out your heart, your emotions, before God, he suggests and beg for the lives of your little ones.

In the final section the Poet-King, beginning with verse 20, addresses the LORD asking who it is to whom he has done all of this? Should women eat their children, LORD? Should priests be killed in the LORD’s sanctuary? Should you have done this, he implies. He points out that young and old are dead in the streets at the hands of his enemies, those that the LORD had invited from all over to attack and bring Judah down. No one escaped, he laments, ‘those whom I bore and reared my enemy has destroyed.’

Sweet Death
Haya Gaon

Yes, the bitterness of death is past,
and death is far sweeter than honey,
but not for all nations,
not for all races.
There is only one people to whom death is pleasant—the people of god
the offspring of the three patriarchs,
Abraham, Isasac, and Jacob,
who wait for death but it does not come.
Not even this wish is granted them.
They have been allotted a long life,
so that no sorrow shall escape them.

This is the people that is as though it had never been.
every mouth devoured it;
it was scattered to the corners of the earth,
plundered by all nations.
Before Media toppled it,
Babylon consumed it;
Greece swallowed it up,
Ishmael did not spew it out.
Why do You make its yoke heavier;
why do You multiply its misery?
It has neither weapons nor strength;
it can no longer bear the burden.

Make haste, go up to my Father and say to Him:
‘Your son is about to die.
Will You not come to visit him?
Speak to the earth
and it will tell You how he has wandered to its limits.
Its dust will inform you how it was kneaded with his blood.
Go to the wilderness
and see how it was drenched with his tears.
The blood of Your murdered people
has made the desert bring forth grain.’

Get up, call on your God,
gather all your dead and say to Him:
‘O Lord, You are compassionate and gracious,
after all this, will You hold back?
You have ravaged them,
You have ridiculed them.
You have paid them no heed.
You have given them up to be butchered like sheep
and till now You have shown them no pity.
Is it so hard for You to have mercy
even on the widowed city
which was once so full of people?
Will you refuse to comfort her with Your love?

Collect for the Day
O my God, thou art very near, in my heart and about my way; yet often thou dost seem very far off and my soul fainteth for looking after thee: thou dost lead me through dark places and withdrawest thyself from me. in the desolate time when I feel perplexed and forsaken, I would think upon the cross of my Saviour and his dreadful cry, that my faith may hold fast in his faith and that despair may not seize me. Help me to remember the days of vision and sure confidence, guide me to stay my soul in the revelations of thyself which thou hast given me in time past through all thy prophets and servants, and bring me out of the valley of the dark shade once more into the light of thy persence, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

[286:129:434 W. R. Matthews, 1881-1973]


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