. . . When you come to serve the Creator,
stand in justice and fear,
prepare yourself for trials.
Be sincere of heart and steadfast,
incline your ear and receive the word of understanding,
undisturbed in time of adversity.
Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not;
thus will you be wise in all your ways.
Dictionary.com defines wisdom as “knowledge of what is true or right couples with just judgment as to action.” Wisdom is dancing at the dawn of creation. Alternatively, wisdom has been defined as the Word (the Cosmic Christ) before creation and/or the Holy Spirit. In Thomas Merton’s poem to wisdom, Hagia Sophia, wisdom represents all that is tender, merciful and compassionate. Wisdom becomes, so to speak, the feminine face of God:
There is in all
things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence
that is a fount of action and joy. It rises up in word-
less gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen
roots of all created being, welcoming me tenderly,
saluting me with indescribable humility. This is at
once my own being, my own nature, and the Gift of
my Creator’s Thought and Art within me, speaking
as Hagia Sophia, speaking as my sister, Wisdom.
Jung sees wisdom work as the task of the second half of life. As we come to understand what life is really all about, we come to wisdom—the ability to discern the ultimate reality which should drive our lives forward.
We can say that wisdom is about truth. Wisdom answers Pilate’s penetrating question, “What is truth?” Walter Brueggemann reminds us that the truth of the Bible is about living so that the defenseless—the widow, the orphans, and the immigrant/stranger—can also have life and have life in abundance (Jn 10:10) Wisdom is, as my friend Frank described it in our discussion group yesterday, about understanding that our choices, our lifestyles are often supported on the backs of factory workers living in subhuman conditions and earning unjust wages in Bangladesh. Wisdom is understanding that the forces of creation will rage; however, we must understand that our carbon consumption is fueling bigger and badder hurricanes and tornados. Wisdom, then, is knowing that we are one with all of creation. Standing above and apart from creation represents cosmic disorder and ultimate disaster.
Ignatius of Loyola teaches wisdom in the Spiritual Exercises. I have finally, after many vain attempts to do the Exercises, found a book which may help me work my way through Ignatius’ wisdom (Williams, The Gift of Spiritual Intimacy). In the first exercise of the first week, Ignatius speaks of the fall of the angels. How could such wonderful angelic creatures opt not to serve God? Williams characterizes this as cosmic disorder and, like Ignatius, challenges us to consider how we are part of and contribute to cosmic disorder. Stay tuned. I am working on that one and it may take a while—slow learner!
Ben Sira teaches us that wisdom has something to do with cosmic disorder. The antidote is fear (not trembling cowering stuff) of God. Fear of God is about using our freedom to build up the Body of Christ, the Kin-dom of God on earth. Our task is to work to restore cosmic order based always on the twin virtues of justice and compassion. Justice is about right order. Compassion is about right action, “just judgment as to action.” It involves waiting on God who will lead us to new life.
In our lives, it is important to avoid rash speech or action. Our posture is one of listening attentively to the voice of the Creator who is ever calling us to new life and ever-wiser action. In the Pentecost season, we are well aware of the power of the Holy Spirit enabling us to “incline our ear (s) and receive a word of understanding.”
We pray for the Holy Spirit to fill us with wisdom, a spirit of justice, and prudent action. We are called to reflect and to speak truth to power lovingly. When we fear God great things happen:
You who fear the God, wait for his mercy,
turn not away lest you fall.
You who fear the God, trust him,
and your reward will not be lost.
You who fear the God, hope for good things,
for lasting joy and mercy.
You who fear the God, love him,
and your hearts will be enlightened.
The picture of the squirrel speaks of a sort of trust. The squirrel has come to expect the dropped seeds from my squirrel proof bird feeders to provide him with his daily manna.