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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

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Ecclesiastes 3,1-15

There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven:

A time for giving birth, a time for dying; a time for planting, a time for uprooting what has been planted.

A time for killing, a time for healing; a time for knocking down, a time for building.

A time for tears, a time for laughter; a time for mourning, a time for dancing.

A time for throwing stones away, a time for gathering them; a time for embracing, a time to refrain from embracing.

A time for searching, a time for losing; a time for keeping, a time for discarding.

A time for tearing, a time for sewing; a time for keeping silent, a time for speaking.

A time for loving, a time for hating; a time for war, a time for peace.

What do people gain from the efforts they make?

I contemplate the task that God gives humanity to labour at.

All that he does is apt for its time; but although he has given us an awareness of the passage of time, we can grasp neither the beginning nor the end of what God does.

I know there is no happiness for a human being except in pleasure and enjoyment through life.

And when we eat and drink and find happiness in all our achievements, this is a gift from God.

I know that whatever God does will be for ever. To this there is nothing to add, from this there is nothing to subtract, and the way God acts inspires dread.

What is, has been already, what will be, is already; God seeks out anyone who is persecuted.


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The author, leaving aside the disguise of Pseudo-Solomon, presents a long meditation on time. In the biblical wisdom literature it is often stressed that each thing has "a time": a tree bears fruit "in its time" (Ps 1:3), the grain is piled up "in its time" (Job 5:26), migrating birds know "their time" (Jer 8:7), even the word has "its own time" (Prov 15:23). And knowing the "time" is a sign of wisdom. Qohelet, with this composition of pairs of seven plus seven "parallelisms" wants to enfold the whole of human life scanning it through its diverse "seasons" and "events." The entire life of human beings, from birth to death, is marked by the dialectic of opposites which the author proposes as a long litany of times which weave the whole of existence. But it is not the human being who weaves his life. It is not we who "choose" to be born, or to die (v. 2), much less can we eliminate the "poles" which mark our life. In everything there is an order: "For everything there is a season" (v. 1). The list proposed wants to ward off the idea of disorder. But it is not for human beings to know the meaning and even less to be able to govern it. Qohelet emphasizes the misery of human knowledge. Existence itself is a multiple and varied "task." But devoid of meaning. Humans are at pains to obtain results, to reach goals, to build a "world," but they are not in control. Why worry if one can’t enjoy it? Qohelet casts off the idea that God has made a mistake, and reminds us that God "has made everything suitable for its time:" therefore it is "good" to be born, and it is "good" to die; it is "good" to love and also to hate, and so forth. The whole of creation has its own inner harmony. Ben Sira too writes: "All the works of the Lord are very good, and ... will be done at the appointed time ... No one can say ‘What is this?’ or ‘What is that?’ - for, everything has been created for its own purpose" (39:16. 21). Experience tells us that life is very hard to live (v. 10) and to understand: "yet they cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end" (v. 11). But God has put "eternity in their heart." It is true that human beings cannot understand the sense of the "times" which succeed each other, but they can grasp eternity, God’s "time." Exactly in the consciousness of their limits, human beings are open to the mystery of God which nothing escapes. Everything has sense. Even if one does not arrive at an understanding of the whole course of the times "from beginning to end." Consciousness of our radical finitude pushes us to entrust ourselves to the Lord. This is the meaning of the "fear of God" which Qohelet proposes to human conscience. On this path of "respect for God" we discover that all has been given to us and, even if we do not understand the deep sense of this gift which is life, we can in any case rejoice in it, knowing that everything comes from God.

Memory of the Church