Grey Hairs in Vespers

The following was read tonight in vespers.

It is better to be childless, provided one is virtuous; for virtue held in remembrance is a kind of immortality, because it wins recognition from 2 God, and from men too. They follow the good man’s example while it is with them, and when it is gone they mourn its loss; and through all time virtue makes its triumphal progress, crowned with victory in the contest 3 for prizes that nothing can tarnish. But the swarming progeny of the wicked will come to no good; none of their bastard offshoots will strike deep root 4 or take firm hold. For a time their branches may flourish, but as they have no sure footing they will be shaken by the wind, and by the violence of the 5 winds uprooted. Their boughs will be snapped off half-grown, and their 6 fruit will be worthless, unripe, uneatable, and good for nothing. Children engendered in unlawful union are living evidence of their parents’ sin when God brings them to account. 7 8 But the good man, even if he dies an timely death, will be at rest. For it is not length of life and number of years which bring the honour due to 9 age; if men have understanding, they have grey hairs enough, and an unspotted 10 life is the true ripeness of age. There was once such a man who pleased God, and God accepted him and took him while still living from 11 among sinful men. He was snatched a way before his mind could be perverted 12 by wickedness or his soul deceived by falsehood (because evil is like witchcraft: it dims the radiance of good, and the waywardness of 13 desire unsettles an innocent mind); in a short time he came to the perfection 14 of a full span of years. His soul was pleasing to the Lord, who 15 removed him early from a wicked world. The mass of men see this and give it no thought; they do not lay to heart this truth, that those whom God has chosen enjoy his grace and mercy, and that he comes to the help of his 16 holy people. Even after his death the just man will shame the godless who are still alive; youth come quickly to perfection will shame the man 17 grown old in sin. Men will see the wise man’s end, without understanding what the Lord had purposed for him and why he took him into safe keeping; 18 they will see it and make light of him, but it is they whom the Lord will laugh to scorn. In death their bodies will be dishonoured, and among 19 the dead they will be an object of contempt for ever; for he shall strike them speechless, fling them headlong, shake them from their foundations and make an utter desert of them; they shall be full of anguish, and all 20 memory of them shall perish. So in the day of reckoning for their sins, they will come cringing, convicted to their face by their lawless doings.

– from The Wisdom of Solomon, ch. 4

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