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Stories Seldom Heard Archive

Stories Seldom Heard

Stories Seldom Heard

240th Edition - July 1, 2019

The Story of Wisdom


Welcome to Stories Seldom Heard (SSH).  I especially would like to welcome those who participated in the San Damiano Women’s Retreat in Danville, CA. 


 Wisdom in scripture has many meanings.  It is the quality of prudent and insightful decision making. "Good advice and sound judgment belong to me” (Wisdom 8:12).  It is a quality that is learned not just by the head, but also by the heart.  "When wisdom comes into your heart and knowledge is a delight for you, then prudence will be there to watch over you, and discernment be your guardian" (Proverbs 2:10).  Wisdom, however, is more than the accumulation of knowledge and facts.  It is more than prudent living or the insights that come from our experiences.  Even though we seek wisdom, pursue it with all our hearts, we will never fully grasp it because in scripture Wisdom is another name for God. 

 

We hear in the Book of Wisdom, that she has been at play in creation from the very beginning.  “From everlasting I was firmly set, from the beginning, before earth came into being.  The deep was not, when I was born, there were no springs to gush with water… I was by his side, a master craftsman, delighting him day after day, ever at play in his presence… (Prov 8:23 - 30).  “She is an initiate in the mysteries of God's knowledge, making choices of the works God is to do…." (Wisdom 8:3).  Wisdom is “at play everywhere in his world, delighting to be with the children of the earth” (Wisdom 8:31).  

 

Wisdom in Hebrew is hokmah, in Greek wisdom is sophia and in Latin wisdom is sapientia.   Grammatically all of these words are feminine in gender.  The point I am making is not that God is a woman. We all know that God is God, God is The Divine, not woman or man.  God is the creator of this world that is still in the process of coming into being.  This God is greater than any one gender or object.  The scriptures offer us a variety of images, symbols, metaphors, and stories to help us relate to God more intimately.  The more images we have, the more ways we can explore our relationship with God. Since Wisdom is the personification of God and God's presence in the world, a better understanding of Wisdom would reveal to us her active presence in our ordinary activities.   

 

The Book of Wisdom offers us a diverse and creative portrait of her.  She is depicted as female.  She is mother, sister, preacher, teacher, judge, guide and much more.  "To Wisdom say, 'My sister!'  Call Perception your dearest friend" (Prov 7:4).  She is not shy or retiring, but rather “On the hilltop, on the road, at the crossways, she takes her stand" (Prov 8:2). She “calls aloud in the streets, she raises her voice in the public squares; she calls out at the street corners, she delivers her message" to those who are willing to listen (Prov 1:20).   Often, she is called Lady Wisdom.  We find her "beside the gates of the city, at the approaches to the gates she cries aloud" (Prov 8:3). These are very assertive and public images of Wisdom since the gates of the city are the places where the judges sit.  The business of the day is conducted, bargains are made, lives are determined, justice is discerned.  No one who says they desire truth could ignore her calls because she is not weak or passive.

 

She is, however, different from those who sit at the gates for she and her works are everywhere.  “What is more wealthy than Wisdom whose works are everywhere?  Where is there greater than Wisdom, designer of all" (Wisdom 8: 4-6)?  There are so many beautiful expressions of Wisdom it is hard to capture them all.  Therefore, you might want to read the Books of Proverbs and Wisdom.  They will lead you through a profound and intriguing meditation on God and God's creative works.  If you don’t read the whole Book of Wisdom, be sure to read Chapter 7: 22 -30 "In Praise of Wisdom" and Chapter 8.  But then, if you read those chapters how could you resist reading Chapter 9?  “A Prayer for Wisdom" (Wisdom 9:1-18).  No doubt a prayer that each of us could pray ardently every day.

 

Probably most of us have not thought of or prayed to Lady Wisdom.  It might be a relatively new way of thinking of or praying to God.  Often new images help us in times of transition and creative metaphors open up pathways when everything seems to be blocked. For others of us, this kind of meditation might help us understand that Wisdom has dwelled in us for years guiding and directing our choices.  We might also want to think of people who have taught us right judgment, discernment of spirits, stewardship of creation and a thirst for the mysteries of God. "Wisdom figures", yes, but more - people through whom God's voice trained our ears to listen and our hearts to discern and seek the truth.

 

Recently, I read a book that was called The Forgotten Desert Mothers (1).  The Mothers, the Amma's, of the desert lived in the 3rd and 4th centuries.  Their lives were very different from the city people who sought them out for spiritual direction, spiritual accompaniment.  The Amma's were highly respected for their holiness, as well as for their practical insights.  In fact, Amma Mastridia was known as the female face of God because of her great wisdom and her compassionate heart.  Amma Syncletica encouraged those who came to her to recognize the "gift of self".  God created them in God's image.  Therefore, she encouraged them to seek out the person God intended them to be. 

 

Sometimes when we read another person's life or we reflect on those who have gone before us, we can see how that person had become a wise person.  We might not call them "Amma", but they reveal to us, a little more clearly, the face and presence of God.

 

A friend of mine told me that she keeps a book by her father's bed.  Since he is confined to the house, it is the best way to keep track of his medications.  But she also bought another book that she keeps inside the top drawer of his dresser.  It is a bound book with a modest design and a pen attached by a strong string.  This she says, “is for his words of wisdom.  I don't want to forget his humor and his insights."  Maybe there's something for each of us in this practice.  We keep baby books with first and favorite words.  We make Anniversary and significant Birthday picture books and sayings.  Why not make a book for the wise and important sayings of your best friends, family members and loved ones?  No doubt, the process of listening and reflecting will reveal much to us about God and ourselves.


1. Laura Swan, The Forgotten Desert Mothers, Paulist Press, New York/Mahweh, N.J.  2001. 


"Stories Seldom Heard" is a monthly article written by Sister Patricia Bruno, O.P.  Sister is a Dominican Sister of San Rafael, California.  This service is offered to the Christian community to enrich one's personal and spiritual life.  The articles can be used for individual or group reflection. 


If you would like to support this ministry, please send your contributions to Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, c/o Sister Patricia Bruno, O.P.,

2517 Pine Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

Thank you.    


Special thanks to Mary Ellen Green, and Maria Hetherton who have helped in editing this article.  To make changes or remove your name from “Stories Seldom Heard” mailing list, please contact me at robert.mcgrath@mgrc.com.   Thank you. Bob McGrath. 


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