Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Lamentations of Jeremiah, Part I

The lessons of the first nocturn for each of these three days (of the Triduum) are taken from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, which describe the miserable state of Jerusalem, when, in punishment for her idolatry, her people were led captive to Babylon.  How visibly is the anger of God shown in these ruins of the great city, over which Jeremiah pours forth his inspired words of mourning!  (from The Liturgical Year, Passiontide and Holy Week by Abbot GuĂ©ranger OSB, Translated from the French by Dom Laurence Shepherd OSB, The Newman Press, Westminster, Maryland, 1949)

How lonely she is now,
   the once crowded city!
Widowed is she
   who was mistress over nations;
The princess among the provinces
   has been made a toiling slave.

Bitterly she weeps at night,
   tears upon her cheeks,
With not one to console her
   of all her dear ones;
Her friends have all betrayed her
   and become her enemies.

Judah has fled into exile
   from oppression and cruel slavery;
Yet where she lives among the nations
   she finds no place to rest:
All her persecutors come upon her
   where she is narrowly confined.

The roads to Zion mourn
   for lack of pilgrims going to her feasts;
All her gateways are deserted,
   her priests groan,
Her virgins sigh;
   she is in bitter grief.

Her foes are uppermost,
   her enemies are at ease;
The Lord has punished her
   for her many sins.
Her little ones have gone away,
   captive before the foe.
Gone from daughter Zion
   is all her glory:
Her princes, like rams
   that find no pasture,
Have gone off without strength
   before their captors.

Jerusalem is mindful of the days
   of her wretched homelessness,
When her people fell into enemy hands,
   and she had no one to help her;
When her foes gloated over her,
   laughed at her ruin.

Through the sin of which she is guilty,
   Jerusalem is defiled;
All who esteemed her think her vile
   now that they see her nakedness;
She herself groans
   and turns away.

Her filth is on her skirt;
   she gave no thought how she would end.
Astounding is her downfall,
   with no one to console her.
Look, O Lord, upon her misery,
   for the enemy has triumphed!

The foe stretched out his hand
   to all her treasures;
She has seen those nations
   enter her sanctuary
Whom you forbade to come
   into your assembly.

All her people groan,
   searching for bread;
They give their treasures for food,
   to retain the breath of life.
"Look O Lord, and see
   how worthless I have become!
"Come, all you who pass by the way,
   look and see
Whether there is any suffering like my suffering,
   which has been dealt me
When the Lord afflicted me
   on the day of his blazing wrath.
"From on high he sent fire
   down into my very frame;
He spread a net for my feet,
   and overthrew me.
He left me desolate,
   in pain all the day.
"He has kept watch over my sins;
   by his hand they have been plaited:
They have settled about my neck,
   he has brought my strength to its knees;
The Lord has delivered me into their grip,
   I am unable to rise.

(The Book of Lamentations, Chapter 1, Verses 1-14)

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