We live in a world that loves being distracted. We so often suffer or grieve without knowing how to do it appropriately. When you attend a funeral in a western country, everything is very controlled and proper. Sometimes people will begin to sob with little control – but that is the exception. In other cultures, grief is able to be expressed in public – but not in ours. When we are confronted with something that is unspeakably bad and traumatic, we have little idea how to handle it, how to respond. The Book of Lamentations provides a solution. This book from the Hebrew Bible – where it is given the title from the opening word of “Eka” – the book of how – offers permission to give voice to our lamenting. This book can provide the space that we need to cry aloud to God that God might hear us.
This week we focus on the background of the book, and the situation that gave rise to the book. The Exile which resulted from the complete destruction of the city of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in the year 587 BCE (or others say 586 BCE) was an event that deeply and profoundly shaped the entire nation of Israel and their history. The book was most likely written only a few years after these dark days, when people continued to suffer from great deprivation, starvation and suffering. The wound that the city, which is personified as a widowed daughter of Zion, has suffered is deep and profound.
Although the book is rarely used in the liturgy of the Catholic Church, it needs to be heard again within our communities to provide a sacred way of expressing the grief that is deeply felt but rarely voiced. The book may help us a church community to provide that space for each other to lament and not deny.