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O Wisdom

December 18, 2018

 

 

O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the Most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: * come and teach us the way of prudence.

 

This is the first O Antiphon that began today, December 17th. There are 7 antiphons most know about, going from December 17th - 23 rd. The Ordinariate following some 1,000+ year old English Catholic manuscripts has 8, ending with Matins on Dec 24th.

 

The Patristics refer to Christ as The Wisdom of God the Father. This comes from The Scriptures themselves, e.g. 1 Cor 1-2 mentions wisdom fifteen times. The strange thing though, is that The New Testament term translated as "wisdom" is sophia, a feminine term.

 

Now some Anglicans and other Christian Liberals have tried to assert that this is evidence that "Jesus has a feminine side." The problem here is grammar doesn't ever seem to support this claim. The problem is a theological one, it's identifying who or what Wisdom is. Some want to jump to Christ quickly and then draw all sorts of wild conclusions about gender and Christology. We must answer the question in a way that is faithful to grammar, but also to theology and doctrine most importantly. Jesus was a man. So if that is so, then how can The Church Fathers and perhaps even Paul himself hint at the feminine Wisdom, sophia, being Jesus?

 

God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit always has masculine pronouns: he/his/him whether it be in The Holy Scriptures or in The Creeds. The O Antiphon context sets Wisdom within the Genesis Creation tale. If God the Father spoke existence into being, then The Son is The Word (as John 1 attests), and the breath it took to speak the word is The Holy Ghost.

 

The "Word" is logos in Greek, a borrowed concept from Heraclitus. The logos or Word was thought of us as the Principle of Order of the world, like a blueprint that orders all things that exist. Second, the Hebrew: ruah, has two meaning: spirit or breath. Thus the breath signifying The Spirit in Hebrew is a pun. This is a metaphor; no one here thinks God the Father has a mouth or that The Holy Spirit is plainly a breath of air. In The Trinity, only The Son has a body. Theologically then, the speaker, word spoken, and breath used are all part of the selfsame, single action. And this action - Creation - reveals God as a Trinitarian Creator.

 

But this need not offend women. On the flip side Creation, The Church, and Mary also signify the feminine: she/her/hers. In other words, gender has cosmic proportions. It was made to reflect the Creator-Creation relationship. The prime icon of this is The Incarnation of Jesus Christ. The body of Christ in the womb of Mary signifies God joining His Creation. The term for church in Greek is ecclesia, which is also feminine, so this would comport well to the feminine sophia. It would seem since Christ's body is eternal, which is The Church, then we might say the eternal wisdom in another sense, refers to The Church!

 

An eternal, feminine wisdom actually shows up in Scripture (e.g. Proverbs 3:19). As a recently baptized adult I thought it might refer to The Holy Spirit, until I realized the spirit was always referred to as his by pronoun (despite pneuma/spirit being neuter!).

 

An 'evangelist' once told me this eternal wisdom was actually the wife of God, the fourth person of the Godhead, making God not a Trinity, but a Quaternity. I love it when people take Solo Scriptura to its logical end. This guy did it so well my Baptist friends could have no response that wasn't, in the final analysis, an appeal to some kind of tradition for how to read The Bible.


Wisdom then is first and foremost Christ, but secondly may be predicated to The Church since it is his body. Third, this unity of God and Man, Creator and Creation, means we ought expect to see a union of masculine and feminine. We see this in the sacramental life. In Ordination a priest marries The Church, in Holy Matrimony a man marries a woman, but also think -- if creation is a 'she' and Creator a 'he,' then in a sense every sacrament has this interlocking dynamic of male and female. The two are complimentary, but asymmetrically so. The two are not identical, anymore than God is identical with the universe. 

 

It is no coincidence then that transgender theology most typically follows from confusion about the nature of Christ and his church. Because Jesus' natures are distinct but inseparate, united without conflation nor absorption, this means that creaturely things like wine, bread, oil, and water may be supercharged to carry God's grace in them. The outer sign is the stuff, the inner reality is the grace they carry. God is using creation to heal creation!

 

In the sacraments especially, Wisdom drops down from the heavens to teach us her ways. By cooperating with their graces we are made holier, taking on the very character of Wisdom that is Christ. We become like God, which is to say with Jesus, "Have you not heard you shall be like gods?" This wisdom's gain is better than jewels. In the West we call this process sanctification or divinization, in the East our fellow Catholics call it theosis. In other words, The Incarnation is what makes the power of the sacraments possible. The Christmas story is the only reason why I, we, can become any better. In the words of St. Athanasius who took on Arius at The Council of Nicaea:

 

For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.​

 

Listen again now to the O Antiphon: O Sapientia, O Wisdom - and the Collect of the Day. From this devotional prayer we find the whole of the Christian truth about Christ, The Church, Creation, and our Redemption. By thinking about what we pray, we see how theology is simply an extension of devotion to the One, True God, proving the old adage "What we pray is what we believe is what we live:"


O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the Most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: * come and teach us the way of prudence.

 

O GOD, the Creator and Redeemer of all mankind, who didst will that thy Word should take flesh in an ever-virgin womb: mercifully hear our prayers; that thine Only Begotten Son, who hath taken unto himself our humanity, may graciously grant us a share in his divinity; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

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