Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Lady Wisdom (Sophia)--Emanation vs. Creation

Lady Wisdom in the Bible is described as an emanation, an eternal generation, and a creation, yet we see from the following explanation that, theologically, she cannot be all three of these things. Yet she could be both an emanation and an eternal generation, as Jesus, Wisdom Incarnate, indeed is:

Emanation is a necessary and infinite number of generations that extends from the nature of the One. Everything extending from it is therefore consubstantial. Eternal Generation is a necessary and numerically single bringing forth of the Person of the Son, not the divine nature of the Son eternally extending from the nature of the Father. The Father and the Son are therefore consubstantial. Creation is a voluntary act of God that begins in time. God creates by divine fiat, not by extensive emanation. This extends from the will of God, not the nature. Therefore, Creation and God are not consubstantial but distinct in essence. Do we not then see that Creation and redemption cannot extend from the nature of God or else it would be eternal and Consubstantial with him?  --from The Trinity by Gordon Clark, p. 115

In Wisdom 7 we find, "Wisdom is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty..."  That is clear enough, that she extends from God and is therefore consubstantial with Him. Her nature is divine.

In Sirach 24 Wisdom tells us, "I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and covered the earth like a mist." This connotes something more like a birth, a bringing forth, an eternal generation. And we see Wisdom herself participating in the act of creation, covering the earth to make it teem with life, like a mother bird spreading herself over her eggs. Again, her nature is divine.

In Proverbs 8 Wisdom says of herself, "The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago." Here we have her as the first of all of God's creative acts, and we sense a certain but mysterious distinction between her and God. Her nature appears to be as a creation. Are there indeed two Wisdoms, as St. Augustine suggested, one created and one uncreated?

I think what we must do to understand this plurality, as well as anyone can possibly understand the nature of God and his relationship to his works, is to take all that has been written in regard to Lady Wisdom together and see if we can get a clearer picture. In the order that the Wisdom Books appear in the Bible, we follow a gradual revelation of the entirety of the nature of Sophia. Wisdom is unquestioningly eternal and consubstantial with God; therefore, we can certainly conceptualize her as the feminine aspect of the Godhead. However, we also see her as God's link with creation, a pure spirit who is sent to dwell in the earth and among God's people. Wisdom was created in this sense, that she was poured out into all of creation, permeating all things and bringing them to perfect order. She has become both an aspect of God and a part of the created universe.  "Whoever finds me finds life," she promises in Proverbs 8, hinting at both the physical and spiritual realms.

We can conclude that Jesus is indeed the Eternal Wisdom, but we also find in the liturgy of the Catholic Church the accommodation of these passages of Wisdom to Mary, the Throne of Wisdom. Catholic monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton, in a letter, described Mary as a kind of personal manifestation of Sophia. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that Mary is the dwelling of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (721). As I have previously put forth, Wisdom is clearly part and parcel of all members of the Holy Trinity (which Merton also affirms in the same letter), and therefore the idea of Wisdom indwelling Mary is compatible with official Church doctrine. Holy Wisdom in the Old Testament prefigures (is a type of) both Jesus and Mary in the New Testament, and indeed also prefigures (and is mystically synonymous with) the Holy Spirit.

We see the Blessed Mother as embodying the feminine, maternal qualities of God and possessing within her the pure spirit of Wisdom, who is at once emanation and eternal generation of God, as well as the binding force between God and creation, and a living being of creation herself. As the Church teaches, there is an inseparable spiritual connection between Jesus and his Mother. This great mystery is the mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus through Mary, and it is something that we can only contemplate and hope to someday grasp in its divine fullness.

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