Memory of the Church

Ossza Meg


Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I am the good shepherd,
my sheep listen to my voice,
and they become
one flock and one fold.
.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Ecclesiastes 1,2-11

Sheer futility, Qoheleth says. Sheer futility: everything is futile! What profit can we show for all our toil, toiling under the sun? A generation goes, a generation comes, yet the earth stands firm for ever. The sun rises, the sun sets; then to its place it speeds and there it rises. Southward goes the wind, then turns to the north; it turns and turns again; then back to its circling goes the wind. Into the sea go all the rivers, and yet the sea is never filled, and still to their goal the rivers go. All things are wearisome. No one can say that eyes have not had enough of seeing, ears their fill of hearing. What was, will be again, what has been done, will be done again, and there is nothing new under the sun! Take anything which people acclaim as being new: it existed in the centuries preceding us. No memory remains of the past, and so it will be for the centuries to come -- they will not be remembered by their successors.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Qoheleth (the "Teacher") is a pseudonym that conceals the author of these "words"; it could also be translated as "preacher." The term evokes the "assembly" (qahal), perhaps a religious assembly or a group of disciples, or more generically, the "people" (see 12:9). The beginning of the passage presents its most famous phrase of this book of the Bible: "All is vanity." The Hebrew word for vanity, "hebel", means "breath of wind." It is a metaphor for all of life, indeed, for all of reality, which is "like" a breath. The author captures the fleetingness, the instability, the littleness, and the vanity that are woven through and make up all of human existence. But at the same time life also appears as something beautiful. It is true, there is an exhausting coming and going of all things, and yet "there is nothing new under the sun." The creation - Ecclesiastes suggests - seems to be condemned to perpetual motion without any goal: a movement similar to that of the wind that comes and goes. Immersed in this whirlpool of weakness, humanity cannot have the last word on anything: there is no end to discussions and understandings! All human speeches and theories are an incessant and endless searching: "All things are wearisome; more than one can express." Even science does not grasp the deeper sense of history: it does not understand the transformations of things. If "what has been," natural phenomena, and "what has been done," human history, do not produce anything truly "new," how can we find the meaning, the "fulfilment," of this endless "circuit"? A resigned attitude might find a justification here. And people often say: nothing can be changed; everything is always the same. But Qoheleth does not support an "eternal return of all things." Instead he hints there is an "end" of human existence, since God is the creator. Only one thing is certain for the Teacher: nothing "new" can come from humanity. However, if we read this little book in the context of whole of Scripture, we realize that stability and the meaning of life flow from God. The prophets remind us of this: "I am about to do a new thing," the Lord says through Isaiah (43:19).