Scripture Focus: Ecclesiastes 11.7-8
7 Light is sweet,
and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
8 However many years anyone may live,
let them enjoy them all.
But let them remember the days of darkness,
for there will be many.
Everything to come is meaningless.
Reflection: Here Comes the Sun
By Erin Newton
Where I live, spring is emerging from the short, cold days and the long, colder nights. Despite my love of autumn, it is the warmth of spring that seems to break through a life stifled from winter. Like the Teacher says, “Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.”
The light of the sun is often used to express a sense of blessing or pleasure. Good days are typically described as bright days, warm days. The priestly blessing calls for God to shine his face upon the people (Numbers 6.25). The psalms equate righteousness and justice with light; “He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun” (Psalm 37.6).
The Teacher uses this observation of light to encourage others to enjoy life when possible. Standing in contrast to the joy of light is the memory of darkness. We have walked through the Psalms, Proverbs, and Job. We acknowledge the reality of suffering, oppression, pain, and trauma. Wisdom teaches us to balance the enjoyment of good days with the suffering in trials.
During the Medieval period, some embraced a lifestyle of asceticism within the restrained lifestyles of monasteries and convents. Even today, some view the Christian life as a somber pursuit constantly at war with everything. We become hyper-focused on the denial of our flesh and forget that the world was created for enjoyment.
With the rise of mental health issues, it is imperative that we learn the wisdom of Ecclesiastes. The Teacher rightly points away from ultimate fulfillment in any pursuit apart from a relationship with God. And amid saying everything is meaningless, there is this silver lining: We must hold together the pain of the dark days with the joy of the lighter moments.
We enjoy the spring warmth more because of the coldness of winter. We celebrate each victory of justice compared to the moral failures of a society sick with injustice. We do not whitewash the pain of history by forgetting the dark days. We remember them. The remembrance of those days is what brings the joy of light.
If the Lord allows us to enjoy a moment, accept the gift. We do not need to feel guilty, so long as we are honest about the sufferings in the past and recognize the potential for suffering in the future. Wisdom balances pain and joy.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Small Verse
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone. — Isaiah 9.1
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.
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