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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

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 12,1-8

Remember your Creator while you are still young, before the bad days come, before the years come which, you will say, give you no pleasure;

before the sun and the light grow dim and the moon and stars, before the clouds return after the rain;

the time when your watchmen become shaky, when strong men are bent double, when the women, one by one, quit grinding, and, as they look out of the window, find their sight growing dim.

When the street-door is kept shut, when the sound of grinding fades away, when the first cry of a bird wakes you up, when all the singing has stopped;

when going uphill is an ordeal and you are frightened at every step you take- yet the almond tree is in flower and the grasshopper is weighed down and the caper-bush loses its tang; while you are on the way to your everlasting home and the mourners are assembling in the street;

before the silver thread snaps, or the golden bowl is cracked, or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, or the pulley broken at the well-head:

the dust returns to the earth from which it came, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Sheer futility, Qoheleth says, everything is futile.


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

Qohelet closes this booklet, which he has addressed to the young, with a meditation on "the time of life." He presents youth as springtime and old age as winter (v. 2) when neither the sun nor the moon nor the stars will shine at night; after the rain, calm will not immediately come, as in the spring storms, but more clouds. After the winter of old age, there shall be spring no more: the sky is ended. And he compares life to a house, at first full of life and joy (this is the time of youth) but then always more deserted and fallen. Abandonment and isolation will likewise come upon the house of the rich where also the watchmen grow old and begin to tremble and the masters bend under the weight of the years (12:3). That house will grow ever more empty, death shall reap victims and reduce the tenants to such a little state that there will no longer be need for grinders who will prepare the flour for the bread. The women too will age ("will ‘grow dark’"). The old men no longer work at the millstone "in the evening," those who are at the twilight of life (12:4); they get up early in the morning, but without the happiness of the young, who hardly risen, want to sing out with ringing voice. Physical strength progressively leaves the old, who fear ascents, even at home with the outside staircases in order to go up to the terrace of the ancient Palestinian houses (12:5). The paths of the village become unsafe for the old. Even some foods, like almonds and grasshoppers, give disgust or heaviness. The caper, a fruit that usually stimulates the appetite, has no effect. And the moment arrives when one goes toward the "eternal home" (12:5). And there is lamentation over him. With death is broken the silver string, the golden lamp is crushed, the pulley falls to the bottom of the well; the lamp, no longer lit, and the water of the well is no longer drawn, are symbols of life. The house falls into ruin because no one lives there anymore, led by death to the eternal home. Humans are beings who walk toward death, they are a breath who in the end shall return to God. Human life, from beginning to end, is in the hands of God (cf. 9:1). Time, life and its joys are a gift of the Creator. In no way are humans in charge of it. This sad and melancholy song on old age is not the experience of failure, rather the recognition that one is "a creature of God" without a complex. Thought of death teaches us to live without fear of our own condition of finitude and limitation. The wise one, acknowledging his own limits and fragility, finds freedom in enjoying life as a gift of the Creator.

Memory of the Poor