A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Youth, age, and wisdom

Today's first reading (Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:8) begins cheerily and then turns abruptly into a tight spiral down into gloom:

Rejoice, O young man, while you are young
and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth.

Follow the ways of your heart,
the vision of your eyes;

Yet understand that as regards all this
God will bring you to judgment.

Ward off grief from your heart
and put away trouble from your presence,
though the dawn of youth is fleeting.

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth,
before the evil days comeā€¦

The reading then proceeds into an allegorical description of decrepit old age and then poetic and depressing description of death.

And the years approach of which you will say,
I have no pleasure in them;
Before the sun is darkened,
and the light, and the moon, and the stars,
while the clouds return after the rain;
When the guardians of the house tremble,
and the strong men are bent,
And the grinders are idle because they are few,
and they who look through the windows grow blind;
When the doors to the street are shut,
and the sound of the mill is low;
When one waits for the chirp of a bird,
but all the daughters of song are suppressed;
And one fears heights,
and perils in the street;
When the almond tree blooms,
and the locust grows sluggish
and the caper berry is without effect;

Because man goes to his lasting home,
and mourners go about the streets;
Before the silver cord is snapped
and the golden bowl is broken,
And the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the broken pulley falls into the well,
And the dust returns to the earth as it once was,
and the life breath returns to God who gave it.

Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth,
all things are vanity!

To which the people are invited to respond: Thanks be to God.

As is the case with most of Ecclesiastes, this passage is a wise person's bitter reflection on life. It represents human reason's grappling with the paradoxes of life and with its seeming futility.

Life and its pleasures are indeed doomed to diminishment and death, and yet life need not end in futility. Ecclesiastes hints at the way out of this trap:

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth,
before the evil days come...

If, when we are awash with the vigor and passions of youth, we can keep our focus on the things of eternity and truth, then we need not fear the advance of age or the prospect of death.

If, when we are young (or not so young), our goal is not pleasure, but rather life in and through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, then that life will never fade - indeed, it will be ever more abundant and joyful.

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth,
before the evil days come...