O Sapientia – O Wisdom – Advent Antiphons: a reflection

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.

– cf Ecclesiasticus 24.3; Wisdom 8.1

Listen to my friend Kathryn singing this antiphon here:

The Antiphon set for today focuses on wisdom. The antiphon is based on a couple of passages from the Apocrypha. We get a lot of ideas about wisdom, unsurprisingly, in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. One of my favourite bible passages on wisdom is from the book of Proverbs and it’s a useful passage to look at at Christmas as I think it adds something to the magnificent prologue to John’s gospel which is read every year at this time:

‘The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works,
before his deeds of old;
23 I was formed long ages ago,
at the very beginning, when the world came to be.
24 When there were no watery depths, I was given birth,
when there were no springs overflowing with water;
25 before the mountains were settled in place,
before the hills, I was given birth,
26 before he made the world or its fields
or any of the dust of the earth.
27 I was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
28 when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
29 when he gave the sea its boundary
so that the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
30     Then I was constantly at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
31 rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in the human race.

– Proverbs 8

So we see here that wisdom was with God at the creation and delighted in His presence and at the human race. It seems, then, that wisdom is a key part of the character of God. So when John begins his Gospel he speaks of this ‘word’, this ‘wisdom’ again in reference to Christ:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1

Sometimes I feel that it is hard to pin down exactly what wisdom is. It’s one of those concepts that is deep and wide and that we only ‘see through a glass darkly’ – although I think we can recognise it when we see it. James urges us to seek wisdom from God and when Solomon is asked what he would like, he asks for wisdom.

I think, that if we ask for wisdom we are really asking to have something of the mind of God. Something of the way God sees the world.

O Sapientia

We have as our model, Jesus Christ, who became flesh and dwelt among us. So we can understand when Paul writes of the incarnation in Philippians 2:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.


Here is a song by Iona that captures this theme of the wisdom of God and asking for that wisdom:

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