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The difference between wisdom and knowledge needs little attention. We are well acquainted with how very knowledgeable people, corporations and governments apply knowledge in greedy, violent, hateful and destructive ways. Biblical experts and biblical sages are two different breeds as well. The Pharisees and scribes were biblical experts; Jesus was the sage.
Wisdom is often regarded as a skill in applying knowledge to make decisions or solve problems Wise people are sought after for advice. But so are smart and knowledgeable ones.
Wisdom is so much more than an ability or mental process...so much more that the book of Proverbs personifies wisdom as a lady, a person, a being. The antithesis of wisdom, foolishness, is also personified and even demonized: “The woman Folly is loud; she is open to all forms of evil, she knows nothing whatever. She sits at the door of her house, or on a seat in the conspicuous places of town, calling out to those who pass by, who go uprightly on their way. ‘Let all who are simple come in here!’ she says to those who lack judgment. ‘Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!’ But he knows not that the ghosts of the dead are there, and that her invited guests are in the depths of Sheol, the lower world, the place of the dead” (Proverbs 9:13-18).
The place in which I am sitting to write this surrounds and enters me with resplendent and abundant wisdom. It enters me in the songs of birds, the smell of the air and water, the sight of a plethora of living things, from so tiny to huge and majestic.
The design and workings of just one insect, one flower, one strand of algae, have taken generations of experts to penetrate only the surface of their wonders. I am not acquainted with how much a billion trillion of something is, much less with the notion of infinity. But I feel like I am surrounded by infinite wisdom. One leaf of a tree is incomprehensible to me, a teacher of science. I am surrounded by hundreds of thousands of them. There are more atoms and life forms than that in a drop of the stream water rippling by my feet. “See how the lilies of the field grow...Not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these” (Matthew 6:28b-29).
This is a repository of wisdom. This infinite amount (to me) is only an infinitesimal fraction of the Creator’s wisdom. (“Infinitesimal”, “infinite” plus “minimal”, is a word referring to infinity in reverse, since numbers run both ways, infinitely smaller and smaller to larger and larger.)
Many of us hold a very simple concept of the Trinity: God the Father is the Creator, the Son is the Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit is the Being "who proceeds from the Father and Son” as the creeds declare. Christ, however, is far more encompassing than what preachers keep telling us. The Scriptures declare Him to be the Creator, so it is fitting for Him to also be the redeemer of His creation. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:1-3). “For by him [Christ] all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17).
Because the human mind and bodily senses are so inadequate in comprehension of mysteries, sages create images as a “handle” on reality. Thus we have Lady Wisdom, the feminine counterpart of Christ. (St. Francis espoused the image of Lady Poverty, also a feminine aspect of Christ.)
Christ was incarnated as a male, only one of two choices. As a Spirit, He, like the angels, does not have a gender. While some will insist the three Persons of the Trinity are male, they are really and truly without gender. The Proverbs make a great case for the existence of Lady Wisdom. Since such a lady is not a fourth person of the Trinity, she is the Christ. In His infiniteness, Christ cannot be bound by images of gender or personhood or function. He is Spirit. “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30a).
“Does not godly Wisdom cry out, and understanding raise her voice?...To you, O people, I call, and my voice is directed to your children...I was ordained from everlasting, from the beginning, before ever the earth existed...I was beside Him [Yahweh] as a master and director of the work; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing before Him always...Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine which I have mixed” (Proverbs 8:1, 4, 23, 30, 9:5).
I used to exclaim the wondrous beauty and design of nature, my body feasting on the experience through its five senses. I used to point and say, “Look how beautiful! Feel how peaceful!” I still do on a physical level, but through contemplation of creation, I am learning to behold Lady Wisdom, visible and invisible, of whom creation testifies.
Most can “appreciate” the splendor of “natural scenery” but many do not see the Creator. To cherish and love something means honoring even more so its maker. To do otherwise dishonors the maker, for the maker is forgotten and his work becomes an idolatrous focus. That is like cherishing one’s wedding ring while never thinking of one’s spouse.
Now I exclaim, “Behold the Wisdom engulfing us!” In the beholding, Wisdom penetrates not the physical senses, but the spirit of the beholder. Indeed, “Be still and know I am God.” The merging of stillness and awe-inspired silence creates a powerful state of prayer and spiritual attentiveness.
Revelations are not pursued. They come. In that prayerful state, the Christ, who is Wisdom and Truth, is so lovingly pleased to reveal Himself in His glory, majesty and resplendent, life-giving power.
Again, I still my mind and presence,
Surrounded by natural beauty,
Senses filled with creation’s essence,
Pondering my blessings and duty.
What is visible overwhelms me,
The invisible calls to the soul.
My body can hear, smell, touch and see,
But what my spirit knows makes me whole.
More wonderful than visible things,
More grand than the sights, smells, tastes and sounds,
Are the things that incarnation brings,
Behold the Wisdom who knows no bounds.
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
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© July 16, 2004
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