The Holy Week liturgies here at the monastery--beginning with the (sung) Passion on Palm Sunday through the Triduum and Easter Vigil--are especially rich, moving, and full of meaning. They really express in a concentrated manner the essence of the Christian faith and place the rest of the liturgical year in perspective. The beautiful celebrations this week always point toward the Resurrection, but also provoke within the open heart a good deal of soul-searching--individually and universally.
One of my favorite parts of Holy Week is the change of pace at morning Vigils. Typically, the lengthy biblical reading for this Office is read. This week, however, the readings are all taken from Jeremiah's Book of Lamentations. Segments of the readings are alternated between the reader and a cantor.
Although this won't come close to doing justice to the actual experience of hearing the reading/singing of the Lamentations in the Archabbey Church, I thought I would post here each day this week the reading from Vigils. (Better still, come to Vigils if you can! Yes, it's early--5:30 a.m.--but you can sleep after Easter!)
The passages will all be from the New Revised Standard Version. To begin, however, a piece of the book's introduction in the New American Bible, just to provide some historical context (which can then be applied toward Israel's longing for the Messiah, the coming of Christ, and the promise of restoration through His death and resurrection). In other words, the Lamentations have meaning for us all, up to the present day:
INTRODUCTION (NAB)The sixth century B.C. was an age of crisis, a turning point in the history of Israel. With the destruction of the temple and the interruption of its ritual, the exile of leaders and loss of national sovereignty, an era came to an end. Not long after the fall of Jerusalem (587 B.C.) an eyewitness of the national humiliation composed five laments. They combine confession of sin, grief over suffering and humiliation, submission to merited chastisement, and strong faith in the constancy of God's love and power to restore. The union of poignant grief and unquenchable hope reflects the constanct prophetic vision of the weakness of humanity and the strength of God's love.
LAMENTATIONS 1:12-22 (NRSV)
Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Look and see
if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,
which was brought upon me,
which the LORD inflicted
on the day of his fierce anger.
From on high he sent fire;
it went deep into my bones;
he spread a net for my feet;
he turned me back;
he has left me stunned,
faint all day long.
My transgressions were bound into a yoke;
by his hand they were fastened together;
they weigh on my neck,
sapping my strength;
the Lord handed me over
to those whom I cannot withstand.
The LORD has rejected
all my warriors in the midst of me;
he proclaimed a time against me
to crush my young men;
the Lord has trodden as in a wine press
the virgin daughter Judah.
For these things I weep;
my eyes flow with tears;
for a comforter is far from me,
one to revive my courage;
my children are desolate,
for the enemy has prevailed.
Zion stretches out her hands,
but there is no one to comfort her;
the LORD has commanded against Jacob
that his neighbours should become his foes;
Jerusalem has become
a filthy thing among them.
The LORD is in the right,
for I have rebelled against his word;
but hear, all you peoples,
and behold my suffering;
my young women and young men
have gone into captivity.
I called to my lovers
but they deceived me;
my priests and elders
perished in the city
while seeking food
to revive their strength.
See, O LORD, how distressed I am;
my stomach churns,
my heart is wrung within me,
because I have been very rebellious.
In the street the sword bereaves;
in the house it is like death.
They heard how I was groaning,
with no one to comfort me.
All my enemies heard of my trouble;
they are glad that you have done it.
Bring on the day you have announced,
and let them be as I am.
Let all their evildoing come before you;
and deal with them
as you have dealt with me
because of all my transgressions;
for my groans are many
and my heart is faint.