Memory of the Mother of the Lord

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Reading of the Word of God

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Ecclesiastes 7,1-10

Better a good name than costly oil, the day of death than the day of birth.

Better go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting; for to this end everyone comes, let the living take this to heart.

Better sadness than laughter: a joyful heart may be concealed behind sad looks.

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, the heart of fools in the house of gaiety.

Better attend to the reprimand of the wise than listen to a song sung by a fool.

For like the crackling of thorns under the cauldron is the laughter of fools: and that too is futile.

But being oppressed drives a sage mad, and a present corrupts the heart.

Better the end of a matter than its beginning, better patience than ambition.

Do not be too easily exasperated, for exasperation dwells in the heart of fools.

Do not ask why the past was better than the present, for this is not a question prompted by wisdom.


Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Qohelet, in the previous chapter, vehemently criticized speaking "more words" (6:11) which only increase the "breath of wind" (hebel), waywardness and uncertainty. Perhaps he was referring to the prevailing conviction that good actions produce happiness and bad ones misfortune or, in the religious version, God punishes the wicked and rewards the honest. Qohelet questions this wisdom that expressed itself through various popular proverbs. The first regards good reputation: "A good name is better than precious ointment" (v. 1). No riches can equal a good reputation. In this sense, the day of one’s death is better than that of one’s birth, because a "good name" cannot be inherited, it is earned. The second proverb (v. 2) maintains that it is better to go to a house struck by pain that to one where there’s a party. It is to say that one learns more from sorrow than from success. The third proverb (v. 3) affirms that it is better to suffer than to laugh. Only a suffering face has a good heart because sorrow teaches wisdom. The fourth proverb says that it is better to listen to the reproach of the wise than to the song of the foolish (v. 4). The wise understand that the world is headed toward death and can thus know the truth about life, while the foolish are superficial. According to the fifth proverb (v. 5) we are all foolish, in other words, deluded optimists more apt for the reproach of the wise than to the praise of the foolish. In truth, all this is "vanity" (v. 6). These proverbs are not expressions of true wisdom, because they arise not from one who has "heart," that is, a mind free and serene. They speak under the pressure of painful events; pain distorts one’s reasoning capacity: "Surely oppression makes the wise foolish and a bribe corrupts the heart" (v. 7). The one who has given up and hopes no more that things can change comes to say: "Better is the end of a thing than its beginning" (v. 8a). Qohelet objects to this with a traditional proverb: "The duration of the breath is better than its height" (v. 8b). The "short breath" is a sign of impatience, agitation and anguish. The "high" breath, on the other hand, indicates arrogance, which is a form of desperation regarding the present and future. Qohelet prefers the "deep breath" which does not fixate obsessively on the undesirable present but is capable of humble waiting and patience. It is therefore not wise to lament and be sorrowful continuously about how the world is going, because "anger lodges in the bosom of fools" (v. 9b). Fools weep continuously on the evil fate of the world, they see nothing but bad and wicked things, and they wish all would end quickly, since "Better is the end of a thing than its beginning" (v. 8a). Qohelet questions those who are nostalgic of the past. These, always ready to blame the present, take refuge in lamenting the passing of a golden age. It is not wise to ask oneself if times past were better than the present, perhaps taking refuge in a future not yet present. The wise know how to seize the today of their own existence.