Following the fall of Jerusalem and the horrendous things that took place there, be lievers try to understand. They are not complaining; they see the ruins as deserved punishment for their many excesses and constant rejection of God’s warnings. Yet, they know that the Lord loves his people: they believe this, feel it and proclaim it.
When the exiles returned to Jerusalem, they may have gathered to pray together on the ruins of what had been the Temple, and taken turns with these laments. Later they continued yearly to pray them on the date of the catastrophe, and much later the Church adopted the custom of using them in the days she remembers the death of Jesus.
In the Lord’s Passion, the believer sees the sum total of the suffering and anxiety of humankind. These poems help us to look with the same compassion on the suffering of Christ and the suffering of the destitute. They will help us to unite the vision of universal pain with the sense of human sinfulness and responsibility.
A Jewish tradition attributes these poems to Jeremiah. They do seem to manifest a spirit very similar to his.