Friday, December 15, 2006

Wisdom's Quiet Children

Matthew 11:19... "Wisdom is justified by all her works."

There is an interesting ambiguity in the textual tradition of Matthew's gospel. A large group of ancient Greek manuscripts carry the phrase "by all her children" rather than "by all her works."

This is not the place to go into the background of Sophia or wisdom. Suffice it to say, she has a long and distinguished pre-history of her own, culminating for Christians in the first chapter of John's gospel. Between the Wisdom of Solomon and the Johannine gospel there is a theological equivalent of a sex-change. The Logos, s/he who participated in creating the world, descends from the heavenlies to redeem it. The reference here in Matthew may indeed be to Christ, however veiled it may sound to modern ears.

However, what is important to note is how quietly wisdom is vindicated by her own. All around the faithful in this passage there are criticisms hurled with labels and epithets attached. "You did this; you didn't do that, you ___________!" The wise children, however, say nothing in response. Markedly absent in this passage is any of the defensive posturing and verbal jousting which one would ordinarily expect from those who are wise.

Wisdom is at wisdom's best when her children go about their lives in a spirit of quietness and calm. Note to self: we do not need to respond to every situation or answer every challenge thrown down by the world. Wisdom's vindication in Matthew consists in the fact that the fruit of Her work is quiet. Indeed her goal is consistent and persistent virtues, faith hope and love, lived in the face of a world sorely in need of all three.

Grant this, Lord, unto us all.

The only verbal connection here with our blessed Mother is her famous title "Seat of Wisdom." Here is a small meditation with that connection:

MARY, you are the Seat of Wisdom because the Son of God, the eternal Wisdom, assumed flesh from you, dwelt in your virginal womb, and as an Infant rested in your arms. As the Son of God, Jesus is called Wisdom. The Father thinks of Himself from eternity. This thought of the Father is a distinct person—the Word, the Wisdom of God.

But the Son of God is also called Wisdom because in the work of redemption divine wisdom shows itself in the highest degree. After becoming Man, Jesus taught us wisdom. He taught us that temporal goods are vain and possess true value only in so far as they are means for obtaining our final destiny. He has reminded us to be most earnest about saving our souls.

Seat of Wisdom, you bore in your womb Him who is the personal and eternal Wisdom of God, and whose words and teaching give evidence of wisdom in the highest degree. Obtain for me the grace to embrace wisdom with my whole soul as I see it in the doctrine of your divine Son.

And finally, what sparked this post is a passage from Swiss Catholic Theologian Father Hans Urs von Balthasar:

The Virgin, harboring a mystery under her heart, remains in profound solitude. In a silence that almost causes the preplexed Joseph to despair. Incarnation of God means condescension, abasement, and because we are sinners, humiliation.

And he already draws his Mother into these humilations. Where did she get this child? People must have talked at the time, and they probably never stopped. It must have been a sorry state of affairs if Joseph could find no better way out than to divorce his bride quietly.

God's humanism at once begins drastically. Those whose lives God enters, those who enter into his, are not protected. They have to go along into a suspicion and ambiguity they cannot talk their way out of. And the ambiguity will only get worse, until, at the cross, the Mother will get to see what her Yes has caused and will have ot hear the vitirolic ridicule to which the Son is forced to listen.

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