Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sunday canticle for Lent : Lamentations 5

Herewith the next part in my series on the canticles used in the third nocturn of Matins on Sundays in the Benedictine Office, in the form of a look at the second canticle for the Lenten season, which comes from Lamentations Chapter 5. The canticle is a plea for God to have pity on his people, enslaved because of their sins.  

Lamentations 5:1-7; 15-17; 19-21
Recordare, Domine, quid acciderit nobis; intuere et respice opprobrium nostrum.  
Remember, O Lord, what is come upon us: consider and behold our reproach. 
2 Hæreditas nostra versa est ad alienos, domus nostræ ad extraneos. 
Our inheritance is turned to aliens: our houses to strangers. 
3 Pupilli facti sumus absque patre, matres nostræ quasi viduæ.
We are become orphans without a father: our mothers are as widows. 
4 Aquam nostram pecunia bibimus; ligna nostra pretio comparavimus. 
We have drunk our water for money: we have bought our wood.
5 Cervicibus nostris minabamur, lassis non dabatur requies
We were dragged by the necks, we were weary and no rest was given us.
6 Ægypto dedimus manum et Assyriis, ut saturaremur pane.
We have given our hand to Egypt, and to the Assyrians, that we might be satisfied with bread.
 7 Patres nostri peccaverunt, et non sunt: et nos iniquitates eorum portavimus.
Our fathers have sinned, and are not: and we have borne their iniquities.
8 Defecit gaudium cordis nostri; versus est in luctum chorus noster. 
[15] The joy of our heart is ceased, our dancing is turned into mourning.
9 Cecidit corona capitis nostri: væ nobis, quia peccavimus!
[16] The crown is fallen from our head: woe to us, because we have sinned.
10 Propterea mœstum factum est cor nostrum; ideo contenebrati sunt oculi nostri, 
 [17] Therefore is our heart sorrowful, therefore are our eyes become dim,

11 Tu autem, Domine, in æternum permanebis, solium tuum in generationem et generationem.  
[19] But thou, O Lord, shalt remain for ever, thy throne from generation to generation.
12 Quare in perpetuum oblivisceris nostri, derelinques nos in longitudine dierum? 
 [20] Why wilt thou forget us for ever? why wilt thou forsake us for a long time?
13 Converte nos, Domine, ad te, et convertemur; innova dies nostros, sicut a principio. 
[21] Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted: renew our days, as from the beginning.

St Thomas Aquinas' commentary on these verses opens with the comment that:

"Here in Chapter 5, the prophet, after many lamentations, addressed himself for a remedy by prayer. So, he first exposes the people's misery, second, he seeks mercy. As expressed in Verse 19: "But thou, O Lord, dost reign for ever; thy throne endures to all generations."

The price of sin

The opening verses (1-6) bemoan the sorry state the people are living in.  It is worth noting that St Thomas interprets verse 3 on the description of the people as defenseless as widows and orphans as meaning destitute of divine direction.

The Knox translation perhaps better gives a better sense of the meaning of the text than the Douay-Rheims:

Bethink thee, Lord, of our ill case; see where we lie humiliated, and seeing take pity! New tenants our lands have, our homes foreign masters; orphaned sons of widowed mothers were not more defenceless. Ours to buy the very water we drink, pay a price for every stick of fire-wood;  led hither and thither under the yoke, with no respite given, we must make our peace with men of Egypt or Assyria, for a belly-full of bread. 

The next set of verses (7-10 in the liturgical arrangement) 7 &15-17 of the chapter) acknowledges that this situation is due primarily due to the sins of their parents, but also their own.

The grace of conversion

The final section is a plea for God to relent from his punishments. 

It starts from an acknowledgement of God's eternal reign, and a plea for God to 'remember' them.  

The most important verse though is the last, which is a plea for the grace of conversion.

St Thomas points out that for our exile from God to end, two things are necessary: 'a preparation of one's will is demanded for deeds of merits', and 'an infusion of divine grace.'   He notes that God is always calling us, willing us to repent, and without his help we can never be saved, hence the prayer "Restore us to thyself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old!" But at the same time, "the prophet Zechariah 1:3 proclaims: "Therefore say to them, Thus says the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you."

No comments:

Post a Comment