Saturday, December 17, 2011

O Sapientia

Starting in the first millennium of Christianity, there was a build-up to the feast of Christmas. Each day an antiphon was sung dramatically at Vespers (sundown prayer) presenting central and alluring metaphors for the Incarnation of the Eternal Christ. (Remember that the Jewish tradition had all feasts begin at sundown on the previous day. Religious feasts were originally observed sundown to sundown. They transitioned to midnight to midnight with the invention of the clock.)

In these O Antiphons, when read backwards in the monastic illustrated Psalters, the opening letters of each day spelled across the page ERO CRAS, or “Tomorrow I will be.” It was an ancient form of very effective religious theatre and presentation.

Today, December 17, begins with the letter S for sapientia. Wisdom—sophia in Greek, sapientia in Latin, sabiduria in Spanish—was the feminine metaphor for the Eternal Divine, as found especially in the books of Proverbs and Wisdom. One might partner or compare Sophia with Logos, which is the masculine metaphor for the Divine. It is interesting that Logos was used in John's Gospel (1.9-14) and became the preferred tradition, but Sophia was seldom used outside of the monasteries. On December 17 we invoke the feminine image of God as Holy Wisdom.

Richard Rohr, December 2011

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem,
fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

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 to teach us the way of prudence.

The sun is gilding Swanage this early afternoon with peace and beauty. It is easy to remember these words today, how Wisdom “mightily and sweetly order[s] all things.” One day, it will be so forever, and “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well…”

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