Monday, February 18, 2013

Retrieve Lament, Day 6 (art meditations + suggested resources for Lent 2013)

"Once, ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent. Where can we find such customs now? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned.
That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve
the lament that we omitted."
 (Ranier Maria Rilke, from Requiem For A Friend)
During Lent I'll share almost-daily meditations of Scripture, hymns, and art reflecting this time of tension between dying and birth.

Won't you join me?

February 18 , Day 6

I'm using a daily lectionary email for my Lenten Scripture readings this year.  To be honest, I find the email overwhelming -- so much Scripture staring up at me from my inbox.  I gulp it down and hope for some word or phrase to get stuck in my throat, pester my imagination throughout the day.

Today it's Psalm 44, the first communal lament in the Psalter.  Prior to chapter 44 all the laments have been person, built around the poet's personal crisis (so says my study Bible). This Psalm written for the choirmaster, though, is a "community lament built around a national defeat."  The Psalm-writer frames his song in -- at times -- a subversive protest to the same God who has so often rescued and prospered His people.  Still, calamity visited his nation.  And the poet -- who knows better -- wonders how long His nation's God will sleep?

I couldn't think of better images for national lament than the Depression-era work of photojournalist Dorthea Lange.

And the re-tuned medley of camp chorus and classic hymn from  Page CXVI, Joy, reflects the weaving of praise and lament in this Psalm, the new melody arranged the night the composer's father died.

The lament that leads to a well soul.

Psalm 44

We have heard with our ears, O God,
   our ancestors have told us,
what deeds you performed in their days,
   in the days of old:
you with your own hand drove out the nations,
   but them you planted;
you afflicted the peoples,
   but them you set free;
for not by their own sword did they win the land,
   nor did their own arm give them victory;
but your right hand, and your arm,
   and the light of your countenance,
   for you delighted in them.

Near Douglas, Georgia. "You don't have to worriate so much 
and you've got time to raise somp'n to eat." 1938

You are my King and my God;
   you command victories for Jacob.
Through you we push down our foes;
   through your name we tread down our assailants.
For not in my bow do I trust,
   nor can my sword save me.
But you have saved us from our foes,
   and have put to confusion those who hate us.
In God we have boasted continually,
   and we will give thanks to your name for ever.

Yet you have rejected us and abased us,
   and have not gone out with our armies.
You made us turn back from the foe,
   and our enemies have taken spoil for themselves.
You have made us like sheep for slaughter,
   and have scattered us among the nations.
You have sold your people for a trifle,
   demanding no high price for them.

Dorothea Lange

You have made us the taunt of our neighbours,
   the derision and scorn of those around us.
You have made us a byword among the nations,
   a laughing-stock* among the peoples.

All day long my disgrace is before me,
   and shame has covered my face
at the words of the taunters and revilers,
   at the sight of the enemy and the avenger.

All this has come upon us,
   yet we have not forgotten you,
   or been false to your covenant.
Our heart has not turned back,
   nor have our steps departed from your way,
yet you have broken us in the haunt of jackals,
   and covered us with deep darkness.

Dorothea Lange:
1932, Great Depression, New York City, Unemployed men wait

If we had forgotten the name of our God,
   or spread out our hands to a strange god,
would not God discover this?
   For he knows the secrets of the heart.
Because of you we are being killed all day long,
   and accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord?
   Awake, do not cast us off for ever!
Why do you hide your face?
   Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
For we sink down to the dust;
   our bodies cling to the ground.
Rise up, come to our help.
   Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love.

Dorothea Lange:
Migrant mother Florence Thompson, cotton 50-cents, 100 lbs

Joy, Page CXVI (if you're reading this post in an email, click through to see the video)


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