Good Friday: The Prophet Jeremiah: “How desolate was the city that was once thronged with people…”

A very short reflection for Good Friday.

“How desolate was the city that was once thronged with people………” says Jeremiah ………. Lamentations 1:1

I have just listened as the lay clerks and choral scholars of Worcester Cathedral Choir performed “The Lamentations of Jeremiah- Part 1” set to music by Thomas Tallis. The Lamentations of Jeremiah are sung during the Holy Week Tenebrae services in the Catholic rite. This offering for Good Friday was recorded on 20th March 2020, before the current government guidance and lock-down came into effect.

“How desolate, how lonely sits the city that once was full of people!”

It is almost impossible to avoid drawing a parallel with our experience of lock-down over Easter. The minor key the composition by Tallis expresses something of the misery that many will be feeling over these next few days as  they are prevented for sharing the holiday weekend with others, as they are prevented form gathering for worship.

The passage from the Book of Lamentations is a lament for the destruction of Jerusalem and the removal of the people of Judah into exile.

The first chapter of Lamentations goes on the evoke something to the reality of loss being experienced by God’s people:

How deserted lies the city, once so full of people!
How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations! …
Bitterly she weeps at night, tears are on her cheeks.

The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to her appointed festivals. All her gateways are desolate, her priests groan, her young women grieve, and she is in bitter anguish. …

All her people groan as they search for bread;
they barter their treasures for food, to keep themselves alive. ….
“Look, Lord, and consider, for I am despised.” …

See, Lord, how distressed I am! I am in torment within, and in my heart I am disturbed, …

“People have heard my groaning, but there is no one to comfort me. … My groans are many and my heart is faint.”

Now, the parallels are in one way quite weak, the exile of Judah  is not the same as what we are experiencing at the moment, locked-down and locked-in by Covid-19. Most of us have not been removed from our homes. But … we are experiencing a kind of internal exile, we can no longer do the things we long for, our freedom has been curtailed and we cannot hug many of the ones that we love. And, for those of us who claim a Christian faith, we have lost an ability to be in present in Communion with each other around the Lord’s table. We cannot share the peace. We are missing out on the usual, comforting and also challenging time of Holy Week and the journey to Easter.

Listen again to the cadences of the choir from Worcester Cathedral, read again the words of lament which come from Lamentation 1: 1-22 above, allow yourself to feel the loss and the pain that is our shared experience.

And remember. ……………… Remember that the loss we feel has already been experienced, has already been consecrated and hallowed by the journey of our Lord Jesus Christ from Palm Sunday adulation, through intense loneliness during Holy Week, to the desolation of the Cross and the rupture of his relationship with God the Father.

Our pain, is his pain, our loneliness is his loneliness, our fears are his fears. We are not alone.

3 thoughts on “Good Friday: The Prophet Jeremiah: “How desolate was the city that was once thronged with people…”

  1. Roger Varland

    Thanks Roger. We’re brothers in trains, name, and most of all in faith. Easter blessings. Roger Varland (in Kenya watching the meter gauge from my front yard)


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