O Sapienta - an Advent reflection

A reflection on O Sapientia…. Wisdom   

Wisdom, usually represented as a person of the feminine gender, is prominent in the Old Testament and the Apocrypha where she is associated with God, especially with The Creation.  Wisdom is seen as active in creation – she is described as being before all things. 

Proverbs 8:22 “The Lord created me at the beginning of His work, the first of his acts of long ago”

Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 24:3  “I came forth from the mouth of the Most High; and covered the earth like a mist “

As we reflect on these passages we renew our determination to care for  all Creation; we ask for wisdom  as we work to protect our planet and to use its resources sparingly.

Some more thoughts on the nature of Holy Wisdom 

Extracts from Wisdom of Solomon  passage   7: 23-8:1   on  The Nature of Wisdom:  Wisdom is “ a breath of the power of God”; “a reflection of the eternal light”; “ she knows the things of old and infers the things to come”. 

Wisdom 8: “ I (Solomon) loved from my youth… I determined to take her to live with me knowing that she would give me good counsel” We remember that God commended Solomon for asking for the gift of Wisdom rather than wealth or power.  

The book of Job, a major part of the wisdom literature, may be helpful to our understanding of Divine Wisdom as against ordinary every-day wisdom.  Job feels he should not suffer all his misfortunes as he has done no wrong, while his “Comforters” consider the misfortunes to be the result of Job’s sins. Finally God reveals himself to Job :   “ where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? ( 38:4)  ..  and one of my favourites! “ Hast thou given the horse strength? Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder” ( 39:19) and “ Who has the wisdom to number the clouds? “ (38:17) And Job answers the Lord “ I have uttered what I did not understand , things too wonderful for me, which I did not know”  This expression of God’s  overarching wisdom  ( “Immortal, invisible God only wise”) finds a reflection in the writing of St Paul.

The person of Wisdom is not to be confused with the persons of the Holy Trinity, and Wisdom may perhaps be best thought of as an essential attribute of all three persons of the Holy Trinity.   

Wisdom is associated with God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, particularly in the New Testament.

St Paul links Holy Wisdom with Christ: 1 Corinthians 1v  24-25  “ Christ is the wisdom of God and the power of God. God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom” .  Today, many people question the wisdom of a God who allows the disasters we experience.   This passage of St Paul reminds us that God said “ my thoughts are not as your thoughts, nor my ways as your ways. ( Isaiah 55: 8).  Human wisdom  to understand these things is not given to us.

Paul also links Wisdom with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In  1 Corinthians 12: 8   Wisdom is given as a gift of the Spirit “ to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom”  ( reflecting Isaiah 11:2 “ The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding) 

So, as we enter the season of Advent, and prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ, we ask Almighty God, to give us His Spirit of Wisdom, as He gave Solomon.   We ask for good counsel for ourselves and especially at this time when the world is suffering from the virus pandemic and we all have many difficult choices to make.


This poem by Malcolm Guite speaks of the essential, fundamental actions of Divine Wisdom that shape our lives in every aspect : 

I cannot think unless I have been thought,
Nor can I speak unless I have been spoken.
I cannot teach except as I am taught,
Or break the bread except as I am broken.
O Mind behind the mind through which I seek,
O light within the light by which I see,
O Word beneath the words with which I speak,
O founding, unfound Wisdom, finding me,
O sounding Song whose depth is sounding me,
O Memory of time, reminding me
My Ground of Being, always grounding me,
My Maker’s Bounding Line, defining me,
Come hidden Wisdom, come with all you bring,
Come to me now, disguised as everything.

© Malcolm Guite, from the Great O Antiphons in Sounding the Seasons, Canterbury Press 2012 www.malcolmguite.com Used by permission.

Please join now in saying the Magnificat , with the first great antiphon

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High
reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things;
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations shall call me blessed
the almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm
and scattered the proud in their conceit,
casting down the mighty from their thrones
and lifting up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel
to remember his promise of mercy.
The promise made to our ancestors
To Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father and to the Son
And to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning is now
and shall be for ever

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High
reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things;
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

From Common Worship © The Archbishops Council of the Church of England 2000-2006

The Bible readings are from The New Revised Standard Version Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.