Ecclesiastes, Chapter 12, Verse 5-7
5 When one is afraid of heights, and perils in the street; When the almond tree blooms, and the locust grows sluggish and the caper berry is without effect, Because mortals go to their lasting home, and mourners go about the streets; 6 Before the silver cord is snapped and the golden bowl is broken, And the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the pulley is broken at the well, 7 And the dust returns to the earth as it once was, and the life breath returns to God who gave it.
This chapter of Ecclesiastes is a tribute to life and is a poem on old age and death. The poem’s mysterious imagery has often been interpreted symbolically. Above all it seeks to evoke an atmosphere as well as an attitude toward death and old age. The poet references to the human body—“guardians”: the arms; “strong men”: the legs; “women who grind”: the teeth; “those who look”: the eyes; “the doors”: the lips; “daughters of song”: the voice; “the almond tree blooms”: resembling the white hair of old age; “the locust…sluggish”: the stiffness in movement of the aged; “the caper berry”: a stimulant for appetite. The golden bowl suspended by the silver cord is a symbol of life; the snapping of the cord and the breaking of the bowl, a symbol of death. The pitcher…the pulley: another pair of metaphors for life and its ending. Death is portrayed in terms of the description of creation in the body corrupts in the grave, and the life breath (“spirit”), or gift of life, returns to God who had breathed upon what he had formed.
How to Finish Well
By God’s grace we all hope to finish well. The poet gives us his plan on how to finish well.
1. Don’t lose sight of the big picture (entire situation), especially when you are young.
2. Do what is right before it is too late to correct yourself.
3. Use your words like tools to shepherd and add value to others.
4. Don’t try to master everthing in life, just what is important.
5. Trust and obey God, because He is the ultimate judge.
“We are an Easter people, and ‘Alleluia’ is our song!”
These words are attributed to St. John Paul II during an address at a black parish in Harlem in 1979, and again before leading the congregation in the Angelus at a Mass in Adelaide, Australia, in 1986. However, the Pope was paraphrasing a quote from St. Augustine of Hippo, some 1,500 years before: “We are a resurrection people, and our song is ‘Alleluia’.” If you don’t hear or read these words again this Easter, you probably will next year. If nothing else separates the post-Vatican II Catholic from the traditionalist, it’s the trope of “the resurrection people”. I’m not trying to import what’s been called the “hermeneutic of rupture”, the belief that the Second Vatican Council changed the DNA of the Catholic Church or the substance of Catholic dogma. However, it’s not an exaggeration to say that the Council created, or at least promoted, a different style — a different perspective from which to view our doctrine and expound it. And the “resurrection people” trope is a key to that difference. Error usually begins with the emphasis of one doctrine, or a collection of related doctrines, over the rest. For instance, had Martin Luther truly understood what St. Paul meant by works, he might have ended his days still an Augustinian priest in communion with the Church. Far be it from me to suggest that either Ss. John Paul or Augustine were in error by saying “we are a resurrection people”; for both men were well-versed in the evangelium. However, the saying can be easily misunderstood. For it would be just as true, if not more, to say we are the “people of the crucifixion”.
For our goal is to follow him where he leads us for Christ is stronger than life or death!