Sunday, June 10, 2012

Wisdom Incarnate, Seat of Wisdom

I wish I had gotten a hold of a Catholic Bible sooner! I have a Bible with Apocrypha, but the Catholic Bible has those books in their original position in the Old Testament, not sequestered into a separate section. This does make a difference in the way these books are perceived, to see with my eyes where they fall in the official order. Today I borrowed one from the Church, and it has wonderful, explanatory footnotes. Now I have more insight into the Church's teachings on Sophia than before. Still, she seems to be yet hidden, so perhaps taking a little piece at a time, a clearer picture will develop.

The notes on Sirach 24:  "In this chapter Wisdom speaks in the first person, describing her origin, her dwelling place in Israel, and the reward she gives her followers. As in Proverbs 8, Wisdom is described as a being who comes from God and is distinct from him. While we do not say with certainty that this description applies to a personal being, it does foreshadow the beautiful doctrine of the Word of God later developed in St. John's Gospel (Jn 1, 1-14). In the liturgy this chapter is applied to the Blessed Virgin because of her constant and intimate association with Christ, the Incarnate Wisdom" (New American Bible).

Our Lady Seat of Wisdom by David Myers

So the Church seems to have left the exact nature of Sophia open, perhaps for future, official clarification. The traditions and dogma pertaining to Mary have set the stage. Let us then consider the titles of Christ and Mary in association with Wisdom; that is, Jesus is known as Wisdom Incarnate, and the Blessed Mother as the Seat of Wisdom. It may seem strange to imagine Jesus as Sophia, but He is, quite naturally, the Incarnation of Wisdom, if we consider my previous discussions on the nature of Wisdom and her integral relationship to the Holy Trinity. The Eternal Wisdom is the inner sanctuary of the Trinity. She is part and parcel of each member, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In fact, according to the introduction to the Wisdom Books in the Catholic Bible I am using, "The highest wisdom became identified with the spirit of God through which the world was created and preserved (Prv 8, 22-31), and mankind was enlightened."  As my intuition and studies have lead me to believe, Holy Wisdom is intimately linked with the Holy Spirit, and is perhaps in a mystical way one and the same. By the power of this Holy Wisdom Spirit, Jesus became man.

Sophia incarnated as the feminine aspect of God the Son, in the person of Jesus. As God, Jesus contains all of the feminine perfections of God within Him, while in human form being specifically male. If this is so, if Jesus is Sophia Incarnate, why do we need to look to Mary as an embodiment of Wisdom, the purely human one in whom Sophia most completely dwells?

First of all, as we have discussed, the nature of Wisdom in God is hidden, mysterious. We can--and do--see her expressed in Jesus. Yet Jesus is a He, and He does not have a womb. He cannot be Mother in His incarnate form. The metaphor that his Word is spiritual milk can only be understood on the basis of our human experience of the child nourished at the breast of the mother. This nourishment is not only physical. The comfort provided in the arms of the mother feeds the child emotionally and spiritually. To be suckled at the breast is to be provided with food for the whole person, for every kind of wellness. The Holy Spirit is the Divine Comforter who Jesus sends after His Ascension.

Jesus said he would not leave us orphans. In other words, not only are we not left fatherless, but we are not left motherless. He gave us His own mother, Mary, from the cross, and again at Pentecost, as she was once more filled with the power of the Spirit, and with Wisdom. At Pentecost--the beginning of the Church--Jesus was mystically reborn within Mary. The Mother is eternally pregnant with and giving birth to the Son.

 The Icon of Sophia, the Wisdom of God (Kiev)

Mary is the Divine Mother. This is the official teaching of the Church. And her Immaculate Conception, Assumption, and Crowning as Queen of Heaven are also dogma. These point unequivocally to her nature as divinized human, by virtue of her Son. We see and know the motherly aspect of God most clearly through the woman who bore and suckled the Son of God, the woman with her womb and breasts, who gives the soft comfort of a mother's arms. Through Mary the hidden quality of Sophia is revealed.

Now let's look at the word, seat. The first dictionary definition given is, "a special chair of one in eminence; also: the status represented by it."  Jesus is Wisdom Incarnate, and Mary's lap then, literally, is the Seat of Wisdom. Another definition of seat is "a place from which authority is exercised." Also, "a bodily part in which some function is centered."  So from here we can extrapolate many modes of meaning.

Wisdom was centered in the womb of Mary physically when she conceived Jesus and continues to be on the spiritual plane of existence. Holy Wisdom centers the essence of her divine being in the person of Mary by virtue of indwelling (ie, "Wisdom has built her house", Proverbs 9). Jesus holds court, or wields His authority, in connection, both physically and mystically, with His Mother. Mary is gebirah, Queen Mother. She is the royal seat upon which her Son, the King, sits. In her title, Seat of Wisdom, Mary is understood as a temple or throne.

God allowed himself to need humanity by humbling himself as a child dependent upon His mother for His life and survival. He did this so that we might abide in Him, and He in us, in an integral relationship of Love (See John's Gospel). The branches give shape to what the vine is; the vine is the base of life, support, and growth for the branches. Neither makes sense without the other, so this biblical metaphor illustrates the reciprocal relationship of God to humanity and humanity to God.

Mary contained Wisdom in her womb, cradled Wisdom in her arms and on her lap, suckled Wisdom at her breast, and continues to be the Seat of Wisdom, that place from which Holy Wisdom is centered and dwells.

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