Monday, March 30, 2009

Lent Day 29: On the Willows

This morning's psalm is 137, one of those that you think you understand until the last verse twists a knife in a place you never expected.

By the rivers of Babylon— there we sat down
and there we wept when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our harps.

For there our captors asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither!
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,

if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy.
Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem’s fall,
how they said, “Tear it down! Tear it down! Down to its foundations!”
O daughter Babylon, you devastator!

Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us!
Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!

But this is one of those psalms that feels true-- if devastating, unacceptable, repugnant. I believe it contains a memory of just that dreadful crime being perpetrated upon the children of the Israelites. Where else could that wish germinate?

But for me, and for so many of my generation, this psalm is inextricably woven together with my memories of this. Enjoy.


Mary Beth said...

Gorgeous. thank you.

Jan said...


Mordred said...

Lovely and haunting. As you mentioned, my knowledge of this psalm is thanks to "Godspell". It touching my mind in a way that has drawn me to it again and again. Thank you so much for posting it.