Ecclesiastics Ch12 V1-7
This is not my interpretation, but an abbreviated version of someone else’s interpretation.
It should be borne in mind that when Ecclesiastes was written there were no dentures, eye glasses, spare body parts, nor was there a plethora of medication to counteract almost any conceivable ailment as there is today, and no national health service. Therefore it is quite conceivable that people grew older sooner and aged quicker than in these modern times.
Just before we were raised from that symbolic death when we represented HAB, a brother recited that passage from Ecclesiastes. In all probability, just like me, you wondered what he was talking about. Because it sounds like a series of meaningless, disjointed statements.
In fact it is a wonderful allegory, and refers to the physical body of a man suffering from the disabilities and infirmities of old age and of course eventual death.
Now I want you all to get your ritual books out and turn to page 148
“Remember now thy creator in the days of thy youth while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them. While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain.”
This is an injunction to man to remember and to practice the duties he owes to the creator, which duties are taught in the first two degrees, while there is still time. It describes the approach to old age when man loses the faculty to enjoy the material pleasures of life, and the strength to give effect to the many lessons of life, as his body, described metaphorically as his house, becomes useless.
“In the days when the keepers of the house shall tremble”
The keepers of the house represent the shoulders, arms and hands, which are to the body what the guards and keepers are to a palace. In extreme old age his hands have a tendency to tremble as the ability to control them is lost, and he becomes unable to defend himself.
“The strong men shall bow themselves”
This is a reference to the legs which become weak and bent as old age advances, and the man walks with difficulty. Also his back becomes hunched so that he walks with a stoop.
“The grinders shall cease because they are few”
The teeth are the grinders which previously ground the food have fallen out, making the chewing of food extremely difficult.. Remember that dentures hadn’t been invented when this was written.
“Those that look out of the windows be darkened”
Obviously referring to the eyes which grow dimmer with advancing age till eventually the faculty of sight is gone.
“And the doors shall be shut in the street when the sound of the grinding is low"
The doors are the lips, and the street is the mouth, being the avenue along which food noisily passes to the stomach, usually with a mumbling sound, with the lips closed to prevent food particles from falling out.
“And he shall rise up at the voice of the bird”
Noise does not disturb the young but even the slightest sound can disturb the aged, as steady nerves are absent. Wakefullness is so prevalent in the old and infirm that even the twittering of a bird will disturb sleep.
“And all the daughters of music shall be brought low”
The daughters of music are the ears. Hearing becomes difficult and the ability to hear the upper vibrations of sound decreases until it is lost altogether.
“They shall be afraid of that which is high”
Youth gets enjoyment from scaling or climbing heights whereas the aged dread attempting such dangerous activities and regard heights with alarm.
“And fear shall be in the way”
The old are filled with apprehension of imaginary danger which they have neither the sight to avoid nor the strength to overcome
“The almond tree shall flourish”
The almond tree commences to bloom in the autumn and becomes a mass of white in winter.
Similarly the hair of the old whitens.
“The grasshopper shall be a burden”
To feeble old age the slightest thing can be an oppressive burden.
“And desire shall fail”
When youth has completely departed, all appetites and desires cease. In ancient times it was considered the greatest of misfortunes to be unable to increase and multiply.
‘Man goeth to his long home”
The grave is of course the last house, shelter, and resting place for the material body.
“The mourners go about the street”
This alludes to the rattles in the throat, the mouth and throat being the street or way of the food. The rattles are called mourners because they are regarded as certain precursors of death.
“The silver cord be loosed”
This probably refers to the spinal cord which passes down the entire length of the backbone, and which in old age is liable to become relaxed and weakened.
“The golden bowl be broken”
By reason of its yellow colour, the brain is termed the golden bowl. In old age the brain is liable to stop functioning properly, as in alzeimers, and be considered broken.
“The pitcher be broken at the fountain”
The pitcher is the great vein that carries blood to the right auricle of the heart, depicted here as the fountain.
“The wheel broken at the cistern”
The wheel refers to the aorta or great artery that receives blood from the left ventricle of the heart, or cistern, and distributes it throughout the body. These last two expressions breaking the pitcher and the wheel, allude to the stoppage of circulation, the last step in the aging process, which is immediately followed by death. After death….
“Then shall the spirit return to God who gave it”
I think that gives a clearer picture of what is being said, so the next time you hear it, you’ll understand what the brother is talking about.
Bill Douglas PM,
Kenilworth Lodge #29 GRA, 2004