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The Everyday Prayer

printable version

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

Memory of Joseph of Arimathaea, disciple of the Lord who "awaited the kingdom of God."

Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Ecclesiastes 10,1-7

One dead fly can spoil the scent-maker's oil: a grain of stupidity outweighs wisdom and glory.

The sage's heart leads him aright, the fool's leads him astray.

A fool walks down the road, he has no wit -- and everyone remarks, 'How silly he is!'

If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your post; composure mitigates grave offences.

One evil I observe under the sun: the sort of misjudgement to which rulers are prone-

folly promoted to the top and the rich taking the lowest place.

I see slaves riding on horses and princes on foot like slaves.


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Qohelet brings up again the contrast between wisdom and stupidity, which he had already hinted to previously (9:17). The proverb cited stresses that a small quantity of a poisonous substance (dead flies) suffices to ruin a vast quantity of a precious substance (wisdom and honour). The poison, which even in small doses kills, is stupidity. A small amount is enough to ruin everything. But take heed, the poison, even before it is external to a person, is present in the very heart. It is, in fact, in the heart that sin abides, or, if you prefer, those bad instincts that ruin every thought, every inspiration, every action. We should be more than vigilant in the heart so as not to contaminate our life and thus lose wisdom and honour. Yes, a little is enough to lose them. From a heart educated by wisdom, good attitudes flow: "the heart of the wise inclines to the right;" from the heart that allows itself to be guided by foolishness, deviations and sadness abound: "the heart of a fool to the left." Foolishness is manifested when the heart does not allow itself to be educated by wisdom. The fool is always a source of banality, beginning with judgment of others. Qohelet then suggests to the wise how to react in the face of arrogance and abuse from the one who is superior to them. He exhorts to calm and patience. He counsels against a violent and polemical reaction. Calm achieves appeasement and causes to simmer down even the gravest offences. He follows the line of the proverbs: "A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (15:1). Calm implies self-control and maturity of judgment. He further observers that often the powerful surround themselves with stupid and incompetent collaborators, while they "keep down" the competent (v. 6). And it thus happens that the mediocre rise to positions of command, while those who would be capable are excluded: "I have seen slaves on horseback and princes walking on foot like slaves" (v. 7). The book of Proverbs too laments: "Under three things the earth trembles; under four it cannot bear up: a slave when he becomes king, and a fool when glutted with food; an unloved woman when she gets a husband, and a maid when she succeeds her mistress ... It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury, much less for a slave to rule over princes" (30:21-23; 19:10).

Memory of the Saints and the Prophets