Note: The Book of Lamentations is a series of poems that, in severe detail, decry the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonian Empire in the early 6th century BCE. In the Hebrew Bible, the book bears the title ‘Ekah, literally “How,” being the first word of the first verse: How lonely sits the city that once was full of people.
Though grave is Lamentations’ cry of suffering…
The thought of my affliction and my homelessness
is wormwood and gall!
My soul continually thinks of it
and is bowed down within me (Lamentations 3.19-20)
great, too, is its word of hope…
But this I call to mind, and, therefore, I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore, I will hope in him” (Lamentations 3.21-24)
Thus, Lamentations grants clarion voice to all who are beset by life’s trials in any place, at any time.
Many there have been and are and will be
who have spent, who do and will spend the night watches
(their hallowed eyes clouded
with ancient and e’er new shadows of grief,
witnessing, in warrantless misery, many, too many nights like this)
into the darkness
of their day’s end bleakness.
Their bellies distended;
their growling hungers, o’er time, silenced.
For, for so long, without the sustenance of kindness extended,
their cries, strangled, wane.
Their bodies broken, bloated by myriad afflictions.
Many wrought by human hands
filled with the glories of partisan intention
and of moral reason, empty.
Still, at every morn,
that new day
a sign of the first and fresh Spirit-breath of life,
they pray, “O Lord,” in hope of the truth of it,
“as so great is Thy faithfulness,
at sunrise, this sunrise, shine Thy light of Thy merciful Love,
Thy loving Mercy upon us.”
Do I, can I, will I, dare I
hear in the cry of these my sisters and brothers
a call, their call, God’s call unto me
a helping heart, an opening hand of the steadfast love of the Lord?
I do. I can. I will. I dare.
Illustration: Lamentation (1860), Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794-1872)