Who is Wisdom?

Daily Office Readings for April 28:

Psalm 24, 29 (Morning)

Psalm 8, 84 (Evening)

Wisdom 7:22-8:1

2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

Matthew 7:7-14

Wisdom 7:22-8:1 (NRSV) …for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me.

There is in her a spirit that is intelligent, holy,

unique, manifold, subtle,

mobile, clear, unpolluted,

distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen,

irresistible, beneficent, humane,

steadfast, sure, free from anxiety,

all-powerful, overseeing all,

and penetrating through all spirits

that are intelligent, pure, and altogether subtle.

For wisdom is more mobile than any motion;

because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things.

For she is a breath of the power of God,

and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;

therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.

For she is a reflection of eternal light,

a spotless mirror of the working of God,

and an image of his goodness.

Although she is but one, she can do all things,

and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;

in every generation she passes into holy souls

and makes them friends of God, and prophets;

for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.

She is more beautiful than the sun,

and excels every constellation of the stars.

Compared with the light she is found to be superior,

for it is succeeded by the night,

but against wisdom evil does not prevail.

She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other,

and she orders all things well.

One of the enjoyable things about the two year Daily Office cycle is we eventually meander our way to some of the Apocrypha, and it can be a good time to hear things differently. The parts of the Bible more familiar to us, well…we tend to hear them in the same old way we’ve always heard them. The the words of the more unfamiliar ones ring out in a different way. It’s a striking and interesting collection of attributes of Wisdom listed here (and I did have to chuckle at the last one–“well-organized”. Guess that aspect of Wisdom still eludes me.)

What seemed striking to me in this passage was the juxtaposition of attributes like “pervasive and penetrating,” but later we see another attribute is that Wisdom is like a mirror–a reflector. Trying to imagine something that is both penetrating and reflecting is sort of like trying to reconcile the wave and particle theories of light. How can Wisdom be composed of seemingly incongruous qualities?

As it turned out, the weekend I was pondering this passage was also the weekend I was enjoying some light reading entertainment–I was reading George Takei’s Oh Myyy (There Goes The Internet)–the story of how a 75 year old man, best known to the public as Mr. Sulu of the original Star Trek, learned to manage life as a media juggernaut.

Now, one might wonder what a former helmsman of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701)-turned-media sensation might have to offer to those of us leading rather ordinary lives by comparison, but what struck me in the book was his absolute candor about his screw-ups as he first learned his way around Twitter, and later, Facebook. (Yes, George has aides who help him with various tasks, but it’s clear he has spent a great deal of time pondering the higher meaning of both his media persona and “the real George Takei.” His tone is not that of a “Let me tell you how it’s done” sort of guy, but “let me tell you what I thought while creating all this, and some of the real mistakes he’s made along the way, and what he’s come to learn about himself through the lenses of both his live-time life and his social media life. The humor in his book title implies that one person is capable of breaking the Internet–which we know can’t happen. He reminds all of us that our own screw-ups are rather messy at times, but very seldom unfixable, and even the unfixable ones can be reconcile-able.

Our passage reminds us that Wisdom has many invaluable and good qualities, but is not necessarily a goody-two-shoes or a Holy Joe/Jane. Wisdom is sometimes the court jester, or Native American trickster Coyote, or the Moment of the Holy Facepalm–and where we see wisdom is in those around us, whether they’re kindly Uncle George or Grandma Sue, or the four-year-old who understands the meaning of her own baptism in such an innocent, penetrating way that she floors the adults.

Of particular note in our passage today is that it doesn’t say that God loves the wise, but that God loves those who “live with wisdom.” We don’t always get to be the wise one; we do, however, have the opportunity to choose who the wise one in the room is, and listen to that voice.

When you find yourself in a tense or difficult situation, and you look around the room, where do you find Wisdom?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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