THE book of Proverbs is the kind of advice suitable for those embarking on life. Ecclesiastes Seems the voice of a disillusioned maturity : a Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher : all is vanity ! "
But the key to the book is in its concluding verses: " Fear Clod and keep His commandments: for this is the whole business and duty of man."
Indeed, the whole of the last chapter (chapter 12), which starts with the words : " Remember thy
By Charles G. Mortimer
Creator in the days of thy youth," should be carefully read. It is one of the most moving passages in the Old Testament, and I venture to quote a few verses from the Authorised Version, which preserves the rhythm and diction of this unearthly poetry :
" And the doors shall be shut in the streets when the sound of the grinding is low, and He shall rise up at the voice of the bird and all the daughters of music shall be brought low . . because man goeth to his long home and the mourners go about the streets: or ever the silver cord be loosed or the golden bowl be broken or the pitcher be broken at the fountain or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it. . .."
The silver cord and the golden bowl— these are the poet's metaphors for the thread of life that is to be snapped; and for the heartbeat that is soon to cease. Could more touching language be found? or a scene of desolation be more swiftly and surely depicted? We cannot neglect such treasures in our Bible reading; it is on words like these that generation after generation of our countrymen was brought up after the Reformation had severed them from their fuller heritage. Such were the cadences that rang in their ears and the wisdom that was distilled into their hearts; so potent a thing was Bible reading in days gone by, and shame on us alike, Catholic or non-Catholic, if we despise and neglect it to-day. Here is another passage from chapter 11: " Cast thy bread upon the waters for thou shalt find it after many days. Give a portion to seven and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil may be upon the earth. If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth; and if the tree fall towards the south or towards the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be."
And lastly this, from chapter 9, v. 16, following: " Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength; nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised and his words are not heard. The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroyeth much good."
So the Preacher sums up his life experience, life mixed of good and evil, pleasure and pain; but all is vanity at the last, except to lead a happy life; and that happiness is based on the fear of God and the keeping of His commandments.
Next week: The Canticle, called also the Song of Songs.