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.

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Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

God-imposed Silence: Lamentations 3 with poem by John Donne, The Lamentations of Jeremy

The Feast of St. Luke
Daily Readings
Ecclesiasticus 38:1-14, Jeremiah 41:3-18, Lamentations 3, II Timothy 4:5-13

Daily Text: Lamentations 3

God-imposed Silence
Another acrostic, this one three verses beginning with aleph, three more with beth and on through the alphabet, the poet addresses the misery created by the Fall of Jerusalem. While there is scholarly debate about whether this is about that event, it is placed in the heart of these poems about that and there seems no good reason to doubt that this too is concerns the humiliation of the city of God in 587 B.C.

The speaker is an individual and that can be claimed throughout the poem, though again there is debate about that. Who the poet is cannot be answered, though this author would suggest the royal personage once again. Generally, the poem speaks for itself, but this outline is offered:
I. 3:1-21 Sufferer is lead through despair to hope.
II. 3:22-39 The basis of hope.
III. 3:40-41 A call for general repentance.
IV. 3:42-66 Acknowledging transgression, the author call on God.
Pointing out some beautiful images in this passage one is drawn to the image in Lamentations 3 verse 8 where the poet cries for help but God shuts out his prayer. This is followed up in verse 44 where the poet sees God as wrapping himself in anger, followed immediately by the image of his wrapping himself with a cloud, through which no prayer can pass. God has thus made herself inaccessible.

In the second section of the poem we find that soaring affirmation that “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” It is this recollection that leads to hope in the midst of despair. Linked to this insight is the acknowledged need to wait quietly before the LORD, to wait in the God-imposed silence, for there hope is to be found.

The Lamentations of Jeremy,
For the Most Part According to Tremelius
John Donne


How sit this city, late most populous,
Thus solitary, and like a widow thus!
Amplest of Nations, Queen of Provinces
She was, who now thus tributary is!
Still in the night she weeps, and her tears fall
Down by her cheeks along, and none of all
Her lovers comfort her; Perfidiously
Her friends have dealt, and now are enemy.
Unto great bondage, and afflictions
Judah is captive led; Those nations
With whom she dwells, no place of rest afford,
In straits she meets her persecutors’ sword.
Empty are the gate of Sion, and her ways
Mourn, because none come to her solemn days.
Her priests do groan, her maids are comfortless,
And she’s unto her self a bitterness.
Her foes are grown her head, and live at peace,
Because when her transgressions did increase,
The Lord struck her with sadness: Th’enemy
Doth drive her children to captivity.
From Sion’s daughter is all beauty gone,
Like harts, which seek for pasture, and find none,
Her princes are, and now before the foe
Which still pursues them, without strength they go.
Now in her days of tears, Jerusalem
(Her men slain by the foe, none succouring them)
Remembers what of old, she esteemed most,
Whilst her foes laugh at her, for what she hath lost.
Jerusalem hath sinned, therefore is she
Removed, as women in uncleanness be;
Who honored, scorn her, for her foulness they
Have seen; her self doth groan, and turn away.
Her foulness in her skirts was seen, yet she
Remembered not her end; Miraculously
Therefore she fell, none comforting: Behold
O Lord my affliction, for the Foe grows bold.
Upon all things where her delight hath been,
The foe hath stretched his hand, for she hat seen,
Heathen, whom thou commandst, should not do so,
Into her holy Sanctuary go.
And all her people groan, and seek for bread;
And they have given, only to be fed,
All precious things, wherein their pleasure lay:
How cheap I’m grown, O Lord, behold, and weigh.
All this concerns not you, who pass by me,
O see, and mark if any sorrow be
Like to my sorrow, which Jehovah hath
Done to me in the day of his fierce wrath?
That fire, which by himself is governed
He hath cast from heaven on my bones, and spread
A net before my feet, and me o’thrown,
And made me languish all the day alone.
His hand hath of my sins framed a yoke
Which wreathed, and cast upon my neck, hath broke
My strength. The Lord unto those enemies
Hath given me, form whom I cannot rise.
He under foot hath trodden in my sight
My strong men; He did company invite
To break my young men; he the winepress hath
Trod upon Judah’s daughter in his wrath.
For these things do I weep, mine eye, mine eye
Casts water out; For he which should be nigh
To comfort me, is now departed far;
The foe prevails, forlorn my children are.
There’s none, though Sion do stretch out her hand,
To comfort her, it is the Lord’s command
That Jacob’s foes girt him. Jerusalem
Is an unclean woman amongst them.
But yet the Lord is just, and righteous still,
I have rebelled against his holy will;
O hear all people, and my sorrow see,
My maids, my young men in captivity.
I called for my lovers then, but they
Deceived me, and my priests, and elders lay
Dead in the city; for they sought for meat
Which should refresh their souls, they could not get.
Because I am in straits, Jehovah see
My heart o’erturned, my bowels muddy be,
Because I have rebelled so much, as fast
The sword without, as death within, doth waste.
Of all which here I mourn, none comforts me,
My foes have heard my grief, and glad they be,
That thou hast done it; But thy promised day
Will come, when, as I suffer, so shall they.
Let all their wickedness appear to thee,
Do unto them, as thou hast done to me,
For all my sins: The sighs which I have had
Are very many, and my heart is sad.
395:418

Collect for the Day
In the beginning was God,
Today is God, Tomorrow will be God.
Who can make an image of God?
He has no body.
He is the word which comes out of your mouth.
That word! It is no more,
It is past, and still it lives!
So is God.

[286:14:33 a pygmy hymn]

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