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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Lamentations 2,2.10-14.18-19

The Lord pitilessly engulfed all the homes of Jacob; in his fury he tore down the fortresses of the daughter of Judah; he threw to the ground, he desecrated the kingdom and its princes. Mute, they sit on the ground, the elders of the daughter of Zion; they have put dust on their heads and wrapped themselves in sackcloth. The young girls of Jerusalem bow their heads to the ground. My eyes are worn out with weeping, my inmost being is in ferment, my heart plummets at the destruction of my young people, as the children and babies grow faint in the streets of the city. They keep saying to their mothers, 'Where is some food?' as they faint like wounded men in the streets of the city, as they breathe their last on their mothers' breasts. To what can I compare or liken you, daughter of Jerusalem? Who can rescue and comfort you, young daughter of Zion? For huge as the sea is your ruin: who can heal you? The visions your prophets had for you were deceptive whitewash; they did not lay bare your guilt so as to change your fortunes: the visions they told you were deceptive. Cry then to the Lord, rampart of the daughter of Zion; let your tears flow like a torrent, day and night; allow yourself no respite, give your eyes no rest! Up, cry out in the night-time as each watch begins! Pour your heart out like water in Yahweh's presence! Raise your hands to him for the lives of your children (who faint with hunger at the end of every street)!


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If you believe, you will see the glory of God,
thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This passage is taken from the book of Lamentations: it consists of five funeral songs written after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC by the hand of Nebuchadnezzar. The people of Israel are dispersed and without fixed reference points: with the destruction of the temple there is not even its cult anymore. A large and gloomy silence seems to envelop the people of Israel. It is the dramatic condition of having heaven closed and a story without a horizon. Hence the "lament". The words we heard manifest Israel’s sadness in seeing the condition into which they fell: "The Lord has destroyed without mercy all the dwellings of Jacob ... The elders of daughter Zion sit on the ground in silence ... infants and babes faint in the streets of the city." It is an emblematic image of the destruction of life, unfortunately not only then. Just think of the condition of so many elderly persons and children in our contemporary cities. And, unfortunately, we do not weep for this. Indeed the throwing away of the elderly and children seems to have become normal. Since the Old Testament, the prophets have announced a new world showing the squares of the city crowded with serene elders and joyful children. The text urges the people to raise their prayer to the Lord, indeed to cry out at him: "Cry aloud to the Lord... Let tears stream down like a torrent day and night!" In truth these cries are already there, even today; they are the cries of the peoples at war, of the millions and millions of the oppressed throughout the world, of the countless victims of violence. Believers must gather these cries, make them their own, and bring them before the altar of the Lord. They should not "give [themselves] rest," i.e. they should pray ceaselessly, tirelessly: "Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches ... Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street." It is so today in too many parts of the world. This biblical passage must unsettle even the believers of our own time. It is urgent for these laments to become insistent prayers and unceasing interest for each of and for all.

Sunday Vigil