Lady Wisdom, O Sapienta [bible/tradition/reflection]

Link >> Ecclesiasticus 24.1-9

In the additional Eucharistic lectionary readings for today, we are given a beautiful passage from the Wisdom of Solomon, a book of the Apocrypha in which God’s wisdom is personified, as she is elsewhere in the Biblical wisdom literature, as a woman, divine and royal, sought after and desired by all the people of the Earth. It’s a fitting passage, for today we begin the O Antiphons, the series of short songs for each day reflecting on a different Divine Name for Christ. Today is O Saptientia, or O Wisdom

In the wisdom literature, Lady Wisdom is at play in creation whilst God fashions it with care. (Proverbs 8, Wisdom of Solomon 9.) She romances the peoples of the earth, especially Israel, so they desire to seek her and dwell with her, and she with them. (Song of Solomon, some parts of Proverbs.) She ‘passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God and prophets.’ (Wisdom, 7.27) She exemplifies the domestic care of the household of God (Proverbs 31). 

In many ways, Lady Wisdom prefigures the work and person of Christ before the Christ event in its particular time and place in global history. This has led some biblical scholars to speak of the second person of the Trinity as ’Christ-Sophia’, linking these ancient understandings of God’s wisdom with the witness of the Church as found in 1 Corinthians chapter 1: 

‘…but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ  [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. […] you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.’

Christ as God’s Wisdom is always inverting what we expect wisdom to be. The upside-down, wise kingdom of God doesn’t look like might or inherited privilege or even, necessarily, age. It looks like gentleness, it looks like prudence paired with sacrifice, it sounds like what comes ‘out of the mouths of babes.’ And of course, it looks like God shedding what it means to be God — existence outside time — and taking on a time, a place, a body, a death, a resurrection. The Source of all being joined forever to a being, in Christ. 

If you and I were God, we probably not think it wise to take such risks. Thank goodness it wasn’t up to us. 

Oh holy Wisdom, echo of Christ before Bethlehem, 
in our foolishness 
teach us to look out for that of Christ all around us
teach us to play
teach us to discern 
teach us to expect to be surprised.
In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

by The Rev’d Erin Clark
Image Lady Wisdom: photo by A.Hanson, 2013