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虚而又虚,万事皆虚!
Xū ér yòu xū, wànshì jiē xū
Vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!




We are not often in China before the end of July. This year, though, we were. At Mass two Sundays ago, I wondered if I had ever heard these readings in Mandarin. This was the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time, and the readings were from Cycle C of the Lectionary at Mass. I searched my own Twitter account to see if I ever noticed them. I may have heard these same readings in 2010, but I was probably too jetlagged to notice just about anything. I know from my tweets I was at Mass on that 18th Sunday, but that is all I have recorded.

The first reading was the opening of the Book of Ecclesiastes. Even for people illiterate of the Bible, "Vanity of vanities" is a recognizable turn of phrase in English. The modern meaning of "vanity" does not resemble the definition used for the older English translations (based on the Hebrew hevel), but "Vanity of vanities" remains, probably because it…

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