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The Everyday Prayer

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

Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter

Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Ecclesiastes 2,1-11

I thought to myself, 'Very well, I will try pleasure and see what enjoyment has to offer.' And this was futile too.

This laughter, I reflected, is a madness, this pleasure no use at all.

I decided to hand my body over to drinking wine, my mind still guiding me in wisdom; I resolved to embrace folly, to discover the best way for people to spend their days under the sun.

I worked on a grand scale: built myself palaces, planted vineyards;

made myself gardens and orchards, planting every kind of fruit tree in them;

had pools made for watering the young trees of my plantations.

I bought slaves, male and female, had home-born slaves as well; herds and flocks I had too, more than anyone in Jerusalem before me.

I amassed silver and gold, the treasures of kings and provinces; acquired singers, men and women, and every human luxury, chest upon chest of it.

So I grew great, greater than anyone in Jerusalem before me; nor did my wisdom leave me.

I denied my eyes nothing that they desired, refused my heart no pleasure, for I found all my hard work a pleasure, such was the return for all my efforts.

I then reflected on all that my hands had achieved and all the effort I had put into its achieving. What futility it all was, what chasing after the wind! There is nothing to be gained under the sun.


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Pseudo-Solomon presents us with the euphoria of pleasure and productivity as the way to the "good" and thus to "happiness." He will conclude that pleasure satisfies a need, but does not give "meaning," satiates for a moment but lets the emptiness remain. And he ends with a proverb: "I said of laughter, ‘It is mad,’ and of pleasure, ‘What use of it?’ Laughter provides no meaning for life, and pleasure accomplishes nothing that is worthy of pursuit. Pleasure, separated from wisdom and knowledge, leaves one dissatisfied, and laughter is proper to fools" (cf. 7:6). If wisdom turns out to be a handful of empty words, much more will be a life of pleasure, fine wines, frenetic activity of building or playing. The author describes the search for pleasure in the various sectors of life. He tried giving himself over to wine, classic symbol of joy. He did not seek simply drunkenness; he did not desire to be swept away: while the mouth drank, the soul was "elsewhere." His attempt was to taste a joy that involved heart and body (often on these celebrations people danced). This experience, which left him content since it absorbed him, revealed just to be a handful of wind. Pseudo-Solomon undertakes then a sort of "journey" in the field of pleasure, seeking to satisfy every desire. There follow several human typologies. First, there is the man who seeks the meaning of life in building houses, in planting vineyards and orchards, in the construction of sumptuous edifices with pools and ponds (vv. 4-5). Then, there is the man who seeks happiness in possessions: he has male and female slaves, herds and flocks, gold and silver, riches of kings and provinces. Finally there is the rejoicing man who surrounds himself with singers male and female, women and concubines. Pseudo-Solomon with all these experiences wanted to be "great and powerful": "Whatever my eyes desire I did not keep from them" (v. 10). He wanted to extract from life the maximum of pleasure. At the end (v. 11), he turns back to look at all that he has experienced and built. He does not hide the fact that he did get some reward and felt some satisfaction. But he must with deep bitterness acknowledge that he found neither joy nor satisfaction: "everything" had been ephemeral, transitory, disappointing. And the momentary satisfactions leave one's life bitter. Riches, pleasure, works had been idols for him to which he had sacrificed his very life. In truth, sacrificing at these altars, he has lost his life and has not found happiness. In this passage the author never mentions the "law" as the measure of his conduct; the only measure has been his own satisfaction. And the only truth is that already proclaimed: "There is nothing of value under the sun" (cf. 1:3). All is "hebel": only God remains standing.

Memory of the Poor