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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 1,1-3

Composition of Qoheleth son of David, king in Jerusalem.

Sheer futility, Qoheleth says. Sheer futility: everything is futile!

What profit can we show for all our toil, toiling under the sun?


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 of these "words" hides behind the pseudonym Qohelet; one could translate "preacher." The term recalls the "assembly" (q?h?l), perhaps a religious assembly or a group of disciples or, more generally, the "people" (cf. 12:9). This little book, together with Proverbs, the Song of Songs and Wisdom, is tied to the wisdom books of which Solomon is the inspiration. Verse 2 presents us with the most famous phrase of this small book, as if to synthesize its whole meaning: "All is vanity." The Hebrew term used by the author is, however, not abstract but concrete it means "breath of wind" (hebel). It is a metaphor that considers the whole of life, even the whole of reality, "as" a breath. It is the same root used to name "Abel," Cain’s brother, whose identity is in fact: "breath, weakness." Many commentators have translated hebel as "empty, absurd." But Qohelet is neither an atheist nor an apostate from the Jewish faith of his time. He captures the transitory nature, the instability, the littleness, the vanity, which nests in and makes up the whole of human life. He, in fact, adds that all of human life is an anxious busy-ness of work and tasks which fatigue and consume body and mind for the sake of obtaining some benefit. But what is the benefit? Qohelet replies: none. It is a warning not to conceive life or work as acquiring a "product": the end result is a "breath of wind." The author, however, does not want to destroy the desire to live nor render null the quest for happiness. In the course of the small book we encounter a tragic vision of life which passes like a breath of wind, despite our attempts at strength and omnipotence. But at the same time, life also appears as a beautiful thing. What we can discern from these first words is the conviction that this "breath of wind" which we are is watched over and loved by God, as Abel had been watched over and loved by God, Abel the son of Adam and Cain’s brother. Each person is an "Abel" to be loved and watched over as the Lord has done since the beginning of creation.

Memory of the Church

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 15 October
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 16 October
Prayer for peace
Tuesday, 17 October
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 18 October
Memory of the Apostles
Thursday, 19 October
Memory of the Church
Friday, 20 October
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 21 October
Sunday Vigil
Sunday, 22 October
Liturgy of the Sunday