The long passage at the end of this post, from The Wisdom of Solomon, was in the background when I was designing and working the Sophia Tapestry. Amongst the most important resources for living well and living as disciples of Jesus in the 21st Century, is an entire biblical tradition of Wisdom. Not just the often prudential and pragmatic Proverbs (which are no less true of moral for that), where alongside such social realism there are hymns to the splendour and glory of wisdom as one of the fundaments of existence, and a Divinely appointed originator of creation itself.
But the Book of Job as the cry of the human heart to the One who is always acknowledged as God, yet interrogated by a faith that will not settle for rational argument, theological subtlety, or emotional blackmail, from friends or God.
And the wonderfully astringent ascetic acid of Ecclesiastes, who through the questioning and scepticism, the occasional cynicism and pervasive disillusionment, hangs on to the truth that "Thou hast put eternity in human hearts" - for all his agnosticism about the meaning of life, Qoheleth still addresses "Thou", the God we encounter at the deepest levels of the personal.
And the Psalms contain an entire range of theologies - pastoral, liberation, green, natural, spiritual, practical, systematic (in an unsystematic form!), aesthetic, confessional - and the entire book is laced with Wisdom, what is coming to be known as sapiential theology.
That such literature is a crucial reflective resource for a post-modern culture saturated with information, fascinated and increasingly attached to technology as the clue to the human future, is for me, excuse the term, a no-brainer. By which I mean, the Church in seeking to understand the cultural forces and realities with which we live and move and have our being, requires a way of seeing the world that transcends the narrow vision and finite limits of post-modern techno-communication, global economics, ethical recession and spiritual disintegration. Perhaps one of the greatest poets of Modernity has some wisdom of his own to share:
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from GOD and nearer to the Dust.
T S Eliot, The Rock.
In any case, wisdom is one of those virtues that isn't so much a single virtue as both a fruit of virtuous living and a goal of life lived well. Of course the Wisdom of Jesus is far from pragmatic and prudential - which is another post for another time. For now, here is a celebration of Wisdom as the pervasive vision and vitality of human life lived towards God.
The Nature of Wisdom
There is in wisdom 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,.....;
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.