Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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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 2,18-26

All I have toiled for under the sun and now bequeath to my successor I have come to hate;

who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all the work into which I have put my efforts and wisdom under the sun. That is futile too.

I have come to despair of all the efforts I have expended under the sun.

For here is one who has laboured wisely, skilfully and successfully and must leave what is his own to someone who has not toiled for it at all. This is futile too, and grossly unjust;

for what does he gain for all the toil and strain that he has undergone under the sun-

since his days are full of sorrow, his work is full of stress and even at night he has no peace of mind? This is futile too.

There is no happiness except in eating and drinking, and in enjoying one's achievements; and I see that this too comes from God's hand;

for who would get anything to eat or drink, unless all this came from him?

Wisdom, knowledge and joy, God gives to those who please him, but on the sinner he lays the task of gathering and storing up for someone else who is pleasing to him. This too is futility and chasing after the wind.


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

All of Solomon’s "toil" and "labour" (v. 18) have earned him enormous goods, precious treasures, and great works. But who will inherit all this patrimony accumulated at the cost of such fatigue? Pseudo-Solomon reviews the stages of his career, reiterating insistently his endeavours and accomplishments and calling to mind that in all these he employed his "knowledge" (v. 20) and intelligence. And he lets himself be seized by grief (v. 17) and despair (v. 20) at the idea that he must leave everything to "another" who will succeed him. It is in truth a constant dilemma in the life of every person who lives in this world closed "under the sun." One works with fatigue, with scientific and technical skill (v. 21) in order to reap riches, but then he is constrained to "give" to another his own goods, one who did not work for it. "No one knows" if such a one shall be wise or foolish. It is clear that work, fatigue, knowledge and technical ability do not keep one from death or from the possibility that all will be lost. A "great evil" (v. 21) threatens humanity, who does not know the way to build happiness. Human life is tried, full of fatigue and worries of the heart (v. 22), his days and his nights are pierced with pains, worries and nightmares (v. 23), there is no respite from anguish and unceasing agitation. The author asks himself if it is possible for humanity to attain happiness. Doing, building, planting, enjoying, possessing, are always keeping the soul detached from each thing in order to preserve "wisdom" or "knowledge": all this does not make one happy. The successive repetition of "hebel" (2:1, 11, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23) is like the leitmotif which accompanies the whole of existence. The end of the account is dramatic: the fictitious king becomes like an impoverished slave in debt, tormenting himself day and night, like an insolvent debtor oppressed by pains. But he is convinced of one thing: joy does not come from human beings but from God. The "good" of man comes from God’s hands (v. 24), not from our efforts. And it is a "good" which only the one who "pleases" God can obtain, that is, he or she who accepts it as an acknowledged gift. Such human beings receive from God wisdom, knowledge and joy (v.26); they even get to enjoy in their toils, which become a fount of happiness. The sinner (or perhaps better, the "failure") is given the bitter sorrow of gathering and storing for the one who is pleasing to God. There is no talk of "good" and "evil," but of "pleasing to God" and "failures." There is no moral order, nor a law of cause and effect. All remains a kind of indecipherable enigma, that is, "vanity" (hebel). Human beings, even when they live with a maximum of opportunity, and thus in optimal condition to fulfil themselves, as was Solomon’s case, experience the radical finitude which can be summarized in the certainty that "I will not exist forever." Man is not self-sufficient. His firmness lies outside of himself. Qohelet puts us at God’s door.