Scripture: Lectionary 494. Nov.14. Wisdom 7:22-8:1. Psalm 119:188.8.131.52.135.175. Luke 17:20-25.
Elizabeth Johnson’s book on the Communion of Saints uses a passage from our first reading that shows us who the saints are: “And (Wisdom) produces friends of God and prophets.” Her sequel to this book is a book on Mary entitled Mary Truly Our Sister. She thus shows us that Mary is central among the saints. Her book also covers the passages of the New Testament that have mention of Mary. I look on Mary as Wisdom and as the Seat of Wisdom. The word fits because it is feminine (Sophia) and many of the verses in this part of Wisdom are easily accommodated to the Mother of Jesus who has “words of wisdom” for us to hear in her Magnificat.
This selection from the latter part of chapter seven up to the beginning of chapter eight has twenty-one attributes for Wisdom that can first of all be related to God. We know that Islam has ninety-nine attributes for God and the Greeks attribute many attributes to Isis, a goddess of Wisdom. Our passage can be further explored with similar descriptions of Wisdom in Proverbs chapter eight, Sirach chapter twenty-four. In our liturgy it is Proverbs eight that is used in two masses dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
There are seven verses that contain three of the attributes thus making it symbolic of the fullness (seven) of the divinity (3). This is not referring to the Trinity but to God as one symbolized by a sacred number 3. A verse taken from a secular writing has this thought that can easily be adopted by what is meant by Wisdom and holiness: “For all time the kingdom is hers (Wisdom’s), for the Lord of holy ones has exalted her.”
Addison Wright commenting on Wisdom 1:4 states: “Wisdom is personified in Proverbs 1:20-23; 8:1-36; 9:1-6;Job 28; Baruch 3:9-4;4; Sirach 24:1-21, as well as by our author. It is not a person separate from Yahweh (the Lord, God)but a personification of functions of Yahweh. Such personification is common in the Old Testament (e.g., Spirit, Word, Justice).
Perhaps, for our meditation on Wisdom we would profit from these words of Lady Julian of Norwich, a mystic, who makes it much more simpler than what I am doing. She says, “For love makes power and wisdom very humble to us; for just as by God’s courtesy he forgets our sin from the time we repent, just so does he wish us to forget our sins and all our depression and all our doubtful fears.” (Lady of Norwich lived from 1342-1420). Amen.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.