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

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Breath of Our Life: Lamentations 4 with anonymous poem, Lament for Zion

Daily Readings
Psalm 137, Jeremiah 42:1-43:7, Lamentations 4, Baruch 3

Daily Text: Lamentations 4

The Breath of Our Life
As in the second and third poems, Lamentations 4 has reversed the acrostic with the letters Ayin and Pe so that Pe comes first (cf. vss. 16 and 17). While this could have been a scribal reversal, and the verses could make sense in the opposite direction, it is unlikely that scribes would make the same error in three poems running. Why it is that way is completely unknown. Could Pe have preceded Ayin in the alphabet in some faraway time?

This poem is that one that says very clearly that mothers ate their children, so fearsome was this siege. This is not unusual in these desperate circumstances, but it generally is thought to occur among those with bad character to begin with. However, Deuteronomy 28:53-57 predicts this sort of horrific behaviour in the midst of a terrible siege.

Reference to Zedekiah the king comes in verse 20, ‘the breath of our life.’ This is a very old phrase seen a thousand years before in the Tell Armarna letters [532:92]. The only question is who would have thought Zedekiah was this exalted, king or no. But the importance of the role, regardless of the person, is always real, and no more may be meant than the ritual recognition of the importance of the king.

Lament For Zion

We drew near to find out how our mother was faring.
We stood at her door and wept.
The watchmen found us, beat us, wounded us:
‘Away, unclean ones!’ they shouted.

Again we came but did not draw near;
from afar, we stood at the top of the Mount [of Olives].
The solitary one appeared before us;
she looked out from her prison as she faced us.

We raised our eyes to see her but could not recognize her,
so wasted did she look.
She had lost her shape, her form was gone;
she was bound in chains and weighed down by her fetters.

We raised our voices in lament
for the desecration of Mount Moriah
and for our poor mother,
who had nothing left to sustain her.

Our cries reached her ears and she too wept aloud.
She wept and implored and lamented:
‘How like a widow am I!

‘My children have gone into captivity,
my sanctuary is laid waste,
and I am left naked and bare—
for these things do I weep!’

Collect for the Day
God of courage and compassion, comfort the exiled and oppressed, strengthen the faith of your people, and bring us all to our true home, the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

[476:895:137 Psalm prayer]


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