Today’s first reading details the catastrophic event of the forced exile of Jerusalem-Jews to Babylon, and its extraordinary conclusion 70 years later with exiles being allowed to return to their beloved Jerusalem.
Psalm 137 laments the pain of loss as well as retributive anger over the violence done to them by the Babylonians in the midst of the exile (e.g. smashing their babies against rocks). This haunting musical setting of that psalm always stirs me deeply — here is the psalm text they use, and beneath it a youtube performance of the setting at Cambridge University, UK.
By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept,
when we remembered thee, O Zion.
As for our harps, we hanged them up upon the trees that are therein.
For they that led us away captive, required of us then a song, and melody in our heaviness: Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land?
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; yea, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.
Remember the children of Edom, O LORD, in the day of Jerusalem; how they said, Down with it, down with it, even to the ground.
O daughter of Babylon, wasted with misery; yea, happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.
Blessed shall he be that taketh thy children, and throweth them against the stones.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost
as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.