In Praise of Wisdom!

The apocryphal books of the Bible are frequently overlooked, particularly by those of us who come from non-Roman or non-Orthodox backgrounds. The canonicity of these books is disputed, but even Luther included them in his translation of the Bible - albeit in a separate section which he placed between the Old and New Testaments. It is interesting to note that Luther also appeared to have doubts about the canonicity of Revelation!

Yet there is some amazing stuff in what has become known as 'the Apocrypha'. This passage on wisdom is worth spending some time with.



Wisdom 7:25-30

Wisdom is a breath of the power of God,
and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;
therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.
For she is a reflection of eternal light,
a spotless mirror of the working of God,
and an image of his goodness.
Although she is but one, she can do all things,
and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;
in every generation she passes into holy souls
and makes them friends of God, and prophets;
for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.
She is more beautiful than the sun,
and excels every constellation of the stars.
Compared with the light she is found to be superior,
for it is succeeded by the night,
but against wisdom evil does not prevail.


Very poetic! In particular, I find this phrase fascinating:

Although she is but one, she can do all things,
and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;


...particularly the second line. I have a mental picture of Wisdom as a dark-haired woman/spirit which, whilst being intrinsically the personification of the Wisdom of God, can pass dancing into our beings and merge with us there.

Do you find that too fanciful?

Ignatius of Loyola is the founding father of the Jesuit order in the Roman Catholic Church. Picture from www.allposters.co.uk As a young man, he was, in his own words, "a man given over to the vanities of the world, and took a special delight in the exercise of arms, with a great and vain desire of winning glory."

After serious injury, sustained during a battle, he was forced to convalesce for months. During this time he daydreamed of romance and glory - but strangely was left somewhat restless by these daydreams. He then began to imagine he was like one of the early saints of the church - and discovered that these types of daydreams didn't leave him restless - but calmer and more peaceful.

That was the start of his explorations into Christian spirituality - and into himself. If you want to read more about his life, it's told very readably at www.jesuit.org.uk.

Jesuit spirituality continues to have a profound effect on many Christians - lay and religious, Catholic and non-Catholic, old and young.

Here is one of Ignatius' prayers.


Prayer for the Disturbed

O Christ Jesus,
when all is darkness
and we feel our weakness and helplessness,
give us the sense of Your presence,
Your love, and Your strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
in Your protecting love
and strengthening power,
so that nothing may frighten or worry us,
for, living close to You,
we shall see Your hand,
Your purpose, Your will through all things.

St. Ignatius of Loyola



The words, '...when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness...', echo in my heart at the moment, as an immediate family member faces imminent death. When in a position of loss and helplessness, God can be our protector and strength - even when our own strength seems to be giving up. We have only to turn our face to God, open our heart and surrender our will - or, as Ignatius says, 'live close to You'.

I pray that you too will be blessed by this prayer. Grace and peace to you all.


You can read other prayers by Ignatius here:

Prayer for Generosity
Prayer of Surrender

Here is this week's thought from one of our spiritual fathers or mothers...and the last from The Imitation of Christ. If you have any favourite classics from which you would like to see passages in future, then please let me know in the comments.

This Christian classic was most probably written by the Medieval monk Thomas à Kempis in the fifteenth century. It is a devotional book encouraging a holy and prayerful lifestyle. This translation comes from The Cyber Library.


The Imitation of Christ
Book Three - Internal Consolation


From Chapter 15
How One Should Feel and Speak on Every Desirable Thing


THE VOICE OF CHRIST

My child, this is the way you must speak on every occasion: "Lord, if it be pleasing to You, so be it. If it be to Your honor, Lord, be it done in Your name. Lord, if You see that it is expedient and profitable for me, then grant that I may use it to Your honor. But if You know that it will be harmful to me, and of no good benefit to the welfare of my soul, then take this desire away from me."

Not every desire is from the Holy Spirit, even though it may seem right and good. It is difficult to be certain whether it is a good spirit or a bad one that prompts one to this or that, and even to know whether you are being moved by your own spirit. Many who seemed at first to be led by a good spirit have been deceived in the end.

Whatever the mind sees as good, ask and desire in fear of God and humility of heart. Above all, commit the whole matter to Me with true resignation, and say: "Lord, You know what is better for me; let this be done or that be done as You please. Grant what You will, as much as You will, when You will. Do with me as You know best, as will most please You, and will be for Your greater honor. Place me where You will and deal with me freely in all things. I am in Your hand; turn me about whichever way You will. Behold, I am Your servant, ready to obey in all things. Not for myself do I desire to live, but for You -- would that I could do this worthily and perfectly!"


This particular passage reminds me of Ignatius' famous prayer and of the Methodist Covenant Prayer, both of which I have written about here. Both are beautiful and very challenging prayers. Members of the Methodist Church pray the Covenant Prayer at their Covenant Service each New Year. If you have never attended a Methodist Covenant Service you are missing something very special.

This is the fifth in a Sunday series from The Imitation of Christ.
Here are the others:
The Imitation of Christ - Book 1 Chapter 1
The Imitation of Christ - Book 1 Chapter 4
The Imitation of Christ - Book 1 Chapter 6
The Imitation of Christ - Book 2 Chapter 8