Memory of the Church

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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 7,19-29

Wisdom makes the wise stronger than a dozen governors in a city.

No one on earth is sufficiently upright to do good without ever sinning.

Again, do not listen to all that people say, then you will not hear your servant abusing you.

For often, as you very well know, you have abused others.

Thanks to wisdom, I have found all this to be true; I resolved to be wise, but this was beyond my reach!

The past is out of reach, buried deep -- who can discover it?

But I have reached the point where, having learnt, explored and investigated wisdom and reflection, I recognise evil as being a form of madness, and folly as something stupid.

And I find woman more bitter than Death, she is a snare, her heart is a net, and her arms are chains. The man who is pleasing to God eludes her, but the sinner is captured by her.

This is what I think, says Qoheleth, having examined one thing after another to draw some conclusion,

which I am still looking for, although unsuccessfully: one man in a thousand, I may find, but a woman better than other women-never.

This alone is my conclusion: God has created man straightforward, and human artifices are human inventions.


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

Qohelet continues to speak of wisdom, citing a proverb that extols its value, linking it also to "government:" "Wisdom gives strength to the wise more than ten rulers who are in the city" (v. 19). But he immediately observes that there is no one to be found who is perfectly wise and without ignorance(v. 20). In effect, human righteousness and wisdom are always flawed and contaminated by human weakness. It is a theme found across the pages of the Bible. The book of Proverbs writes: "Who can say, ‘I have made my heart clean; I am pure from my sin?’" (20:9), and the psalmist sings: "Indeed I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me" (51:5). The author, after having urged that we be conscious of our own limits and weaknesses, however invites us to not give too much weight to criticism, although a wise discernment is in any case good. The wise, knowing they are not free from error, is better off not seeking only praise. He then recalls his decision to set forth toward wisdom: "I will be wise!" (v. 23). It is a decision born of an accurate examination of everything that is said about wisdom: it is truly a fascinating ideal worthy of being pursued. But -the author continues- the search is in vain: wisdom always remains far away and inaccessible. We could say that this is the radical defeat of human pride. The world, in its totality, escapes from human comprehension. Qohelet then introduces a reflection on women, on their power of seduction regarding men and thus on the "danger" that they can present. This is part of the misogynous current that leads him to say: "more bitter than death is the woman" (v. 26). This image of women was a common conviction at the time and in even many other epochs. Qohelet seeks an answer, but does not find it. He comes across a proverb: "One man among a thousand I found, but a woman among all these I have not found." It is an enigmatic proverb; perhaps it means that even if it were possible to "know," in a crowd of a "thousand" -i.e., a huge number of people- one individual, it cannot be said that it is possible to really "know" a single woman. It is to say that women are not so easily and banally classifiable as the commonplaces would have it, be they learned or popular ones. And he suggests that only in faith do we find an answer: God created man and woman integral and without ambiguity. If distortions appear in history, this is not due to God but to the fact that "they have devised many schemes." The "sum of things" (v. 25) comes only from faith. For Qohelet what is written in the book of Proverbs is also true: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (1:7).