Reflection on Holy Monday

Reflection at Night Prayer on Monday

To be read as part of Night Prayer, available under the “Home Worship” banner.


“Incipit Lamentatio Jeremiae” (pronounced Yeh reh me ay). The opening line of one of Tomas Tallis’ most beautiful works, his “Lamentations”.

You can tell from our dog’s name that I rate this 16th century English composer very highly. We used to sing the Lamentations in the choir I was in at college. But it felt then that we were singing “Old Testament stuff” that happened years ago. A bible story like the plagues of Egypt that had nothing to do with the present day. But this is the first line:

“How solitary the city lies! Her streets are empty, her majesty gone, like a woman in mourning.”

It suddenly feels very near as we see pictures of deserted streets in London, and Rome, and Madrid….

The experience of exile was fundamental to the journey of God’s chosen people, and Jeremiah was prophesying in Babylon where the inhabitants of Jerusalem we now living as slaves. Everything precious to them had been torn away by the invaders and Jeremiah echoes the lament of all God’s people. He pulls no punches – things are as bad as he could ever have imagined. I guess that in our present “exile” the deeply precious thing that is denied us is human contact, fellowship and touch.

The situation for Jesus’ disciples, in the passage from John’s gospel we’ve just read, is not far distant from Lamentations. Things are as bad as they could get. The sweet fellowship of the shores of Galilee have been replaced by a crowd that is out for blood.

And then Jesus says these strange words. “Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” – or, we might say, “… to be revealed”. Now, when things are darkest. Now, when everything precious has been ripped away, as Jesus’ garments are about to be. Now when all hope seems lost. Now Jesus is about to shine.

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