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Wisdom Calls

“Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?  On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out: “To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live.  O simple ones, learn prudence;  acquire intelligence, you who lack it.” (Proverbs 8: 1-5)

In the Hebrew Scriptures, in the ancient book of Proverbs, chapter 8, we read the words of a woman, tenderly calling from the gates of a town where all could hear her, inviting the people to wisdom – to herself:

“The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.  Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.  When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.  Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth—“  (Proverbs 8: 22-25)

Mother Wisdom is described as God’s “master worker”, in there with him designing and building the cosmos and the earth.  She is celebrated as a manifestation of the divine. Jesus honored her when he said “…wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” (Luke 7: 35)

“And now, my children, listen to me:  happy are those who keep my ways.  Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.”  (Proverbs 8: 32-33)  Holy Mother Wisdom – Sophia, in the original Greek language of the New Testament – exhorts us to listen.  To pay attention.  And to pay close attention to details, as she did when designing and crafting the universe alongside God.

”The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9: 10)  In this context, “fear” doesn’t mean anything scary:  it rather expresses reverence before Ultimate Reality.  Wisdom starts with humility:  “Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate,” says Holy Mother Wisdom (Proverbs 8: 13).  Foolishness generally follows when people act like they know it all.

Wisdom is paying attention while refraining from the assumption that you understand everything about what you are observing.  Indeed, in order to pay full attention, we must release our grasp on what we do know, so that we make room in our hearts and minds for further knowledge.  Sophia’s students open themselves to new experiences and information, giving the attention that is one and the same with unconditional love.  “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.”  (James 3: 17)

Wisdom = attention = love = God.
Rev. Jim Burklo, Associate Dean of Religious Life, USC
Website: Musings
Follow on twitter: @jtburklo
See the GUIDE to my articles and books
Associate Dean of Religious Life, University of Southern California

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