Saturday, 15 January 2011

How lonely sits the city that was full of people!

I found myself reading Lamentations last night, for no particular reason. I was struck in general by the haunting beauty of this poem to the desolation of Jerusalem. The picture of a city ravaged by destruction and famine might be as applicable now to modern disasters as it was so many years ago. But Lam 4:10 is especially and particularly striking:

The hands of compassionate women
have boiled their own children;
they became their food
in the destruction of the daughter of my people.

My train of thought, as trains of thought are apt to do, made a connection (probably through the explicit language) with Psalm 137 (136) “By the Rivers of Babylon”. Recall the last two verses:

O daughter of Babylon, you devastator!
Happy shall he be who requites you
with what you have done to us!
Happy shall he be who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock!

This is about as graphic a description of how mental desolation can lead to a passion for revenge as one can get.

But this extraordinary passage is not present in the Psalms as sung or recited in the modern Liturgy of the Hours; why ever not? I suppose it could simply be because the editors of the LOTH wished to spare modern sensibilities from such upsetting images. But could it point to a lack of appreciation of the Christological orientation of the Psalms? After all, this is one aspect of Christianity that seems to have been mislaid in the murk of modernity. What more graphic description of the potential state of fallen man’s psyche than these verses? What more telling ordering to the need for Christ’s redemption could there be?

One of the most attractive features of the exegetical method that Pope Benedict uses in his book “Jesus of Nazareth” (which my wife is reading at the moment hence why it springs to mind) is his focus on the Christological orientation of all scripture. If he manages in teaching one thing to the modern Church, perhaps this will be the most important.

1 comment:

  1. Huh. So that's where the phrase "dash against the rock" in the New Testament comes from.