Thursday, September 20, 2012


                Damocles was one of the courtiers of King Dionysius II who ruled over the ancient kingdom of Syracuse (the Greek area of southern Italy) in the fourth century B.C. Damocles was much impressed by the immense wealth, luxurious life style, delicious food and palatial possessions of the king  and used to remark that  a king's life was the most fortunate experience on earth. 
               The words of Damocles reached the king's ears. To teach him a lesson, the king arranged a banquet and gave Damocles a chance to adorn the royal throne . He was provided with attractive attendants, beautiful dancers, costly clothing, delicious drinks, delightful lighting,  expensive decorations,  exotic perfumes, fabulous food, fragrant flowers, fine furniture,  melodious music, and luxurious surroundings. Damocles felt that he was the most fortunate and the happiest man in the world.
                Suddenly he raised his eyes to the ceiling and was shocked to see a sharp sword suspended from the ceiling on a single horse hair, with its point almost touching his head. He was afraid that the fragile hair would snap at any moment  and the heavy sword may fall on him and kill him.  Terrified by the imminent danger, he could not enjoy any pleasure or luxury that surrounded him. He tearfully begged the king for relieving him from the present precarious predicament  to return to his poor but peaceful and safer life.
                  From this bitter experience, Damocles learned that happiness is fragile and that danger surrounds every powerful person. The phrase 'Damocles' sword' implies imminent peril and impending disaster.
                'Death' is the Damocles' sword for all mortals. Death often appears unexpectedly. At every moment of life, we must be prepared and ready to meet and greet death as a friend. Life is short and all worldly riches and luxury have to be left behind when we die. They give only a temporary joy. Sinful indulgence in worldly pleasures may lead to everlasting agony in a hell of horror.
                  Death is the universal equalizer. Everyone is equal before death as death comes to all - great and small {Job 3: 13-19}. At his deathbed, Alexander the Great instructed his close associates to leave his hands hanging free on either side of the coffin during his royal funeral procession. That was to teach the world that he could carry nothing with him on his final journey.
                  “Don’t be upset when a man becomes rich, when his wealth grows even greater; he cannot take it with him when he dies; his wealth will not go with him to the grave. Even if a man is satisfied with this life and is praised because he is successful, he will join all his ancestors in death, where the darkness lasts forever. A man’s greatness cannot save him from death; he will still die like the animals” {Psalm 49:16-20}.
                    We fail to realize this truth till we reach the last moments in life. We waste a major share of our time, health and energy to amass fame, wealth and glory. In the parable of the rich fool, God says to the rich man, "You fool! This very night you will have to give up your life: then who will get all these things you have kept for yourself?"{Luke 12:20}. Let us save our riches in heaven. Jesus taught us, “Provide for yourselves purses that don’t wear out, and save your riches in heaven, where they will never decrease, because no thief can get to them and no moth can destroy them {Luke 12:33}.
                  There is a meaningful hymn sung at the home of the dead during the funeral rites of the Syro-Malabar Catholic church. In Malayalam, the words are:
“Maranam varumoru naal; Orkkuka marthya nee.
Koode porum nin, jeevitha cheythikalum.
Salkrithyangal cheyyuka nee, alasatha koodathe.” *
The hymn may be translated as follows and sung in the same tune:
“Death will reach you once,
Bear in mind, mortals.
Actions done by you
Come along with you.
Do good deeds and be ready
Do not be lazy.”
                      Man’s way leads to a hopeless end while God’s way leads to an endless hope. Let us plan ahead for the unavoidable departure from this world. Let us remember that it was not raining when Noah built the Ark.

*മരണം വരുമൊരു നാള്‍, ഓര്‍ക്കുക   മര്‍ത്യാ നീ 

കൂടെപ്പോരും നിന്‍ ജീവിത ചെയ്തികളും 

സല്ക്കര്‍മങ്ങള്‍ചെയ്യുക നീ, അലസത കൂടാതെ 
© By: Dr. Babu Philip, Professor, Cochin University of Science & Technology, Fine Arts Avenue, Kochi-682016, Kerala, India, Prof. Mrs. Rajamma Babu, Former Professor, St. Dominic's College, Kanjirappally and  Leo. S. John, Maniparambil, Ooriyakunnath, Kunnumbhagom, Kanjirappally, Kottayam-686507, Kerala, India.
For more moral stories, parables and anecdotes for students, catechists, teachers and preachers, kindly visit our web-sites:
This is Story No. 250  in the second site. Please click ‘Older Posts’ at the bottom of a page to read previous stories and click 'Newer Posts' at the bottom of a page to read newer stories in these sites. Please click on a word in the 'Story Themes' to read stories on that theme.

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