Illuminating Advent: Seven Pillars of Wisdom

On the first day of each week of Advent, Seeing the Word will post an illumination paired with an audio reading of the associated Scripture passage. The subsequent days will feature the six movements of visio divina: Listening, Meditating, Seeing, Praying, Contemplating, and Becoming Christ-like.

 

November 29, 2015 – December 5, 2015


Week One•Day one 

Reading

Proverbs 8:22-36, 9:1, 5-6

Listen to what word God has for you.

 

Week One•Day Two

Listening

This passage from Proverbs begins in the form of a poem. It is written in the voice of Wisdom, who is personified as a woman. The poem locates Wisdom’s presence with God both before and during the activity of creation. Though scholars are not in agreement about whether or not Wisdom represents the second person of the Trinity, the similarities are striking between the two.

Additionally, there are quite a few parallels between this poem and the creation account in Genesis 1, in which “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). As Wisdom describes how she rejoices in creation, she also expresses a particular affinity for humanity. In the next line the passage switches into an instructional discourse; she addresses humanity as her children for whom her care is quite evident.

The lyrical tone, archetypal imagery, and cosmic language are all literary devices used to attune the reader to the attractive nature of pursuing wisdom. The book of Proverbs juxtaposes the foolish choices one is free to make with sensible choices. This passage stays true to form and sets up the duality between life and death. If one hates wisdom, one is said to love death. Whoever finds wisdom has life in its fullness, which Christians now know to be communion with Jesus Christ, who is the eternal Word, Wisdom and Power of God.

 

Week One•Day Three

Meditating

“I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race” (Prov. 8:30-31). So often I have fallen into the pitfall of conflating the Creator solely with the Father. Thus as I read Wisdom’s poetic narrative, Christ’s participation in creation—and his delight at that—struck me deeply! If Christ designs, creates, and delights in human beings, then what excuses do we possess to deny the goodness of humanity? What keeps us from rejoicing and delighting in the human race as well? How much longer will we refuse to see the beauty of Christ’s design in ourselves and in one another?

This passage refutes a misconception I held at various points of my life that Jesus only begrudgingly became human out of sheer obedience to the Father to atone the sins of humanity. Alternatively, this poem gives me a glimpse into the divine blueprints in which the incarnation was not simply a backup plan after Adam and Even ruined it for the rest of us. Instead, Christ became human wholly out of love—the kind of love celebrates us as its recipient, not pities us. He became human not simply to fix our fatal mistakes, but to show us in the flesh that he is the Way to eternal life and encourage our participation in his divine plan. I can no longer downplay his humanity, nor wish to escape mine. Instead, I have a newfound reverence for Christ’s embodiment and my own.

 

Week One•Day Four

Seeing

In this illumination, the fact that there are seven pillars indicates completion and perfection. Yet one of the pillars remains unfinished. The third pillar is missing its capital–the topmost part of the column. Instead of contradicting the significance of the number, however, I believe this is illustrative of the Christian paradox of what is already but not yet.

Wisdom’s house is complete, but it is also still evolving as Wisdom extends her hospitality to persons of every time and place. Often the style and ornamentation used on a capital indicate when a column was built. The absence of the capital on the third pillar is a small detail but it acts as a significant gesture, inviting those who encounter the illumination to personalize it. Individuals reading The Saint John’s Bible may imagine how Wisdom’s house might look with stylistic contributions to the architecture that are representative of their historical and geographical location.

As I gaze at the buildings, which are sprawled across the page, I imagine that they extend infinitely outward in every direction to accommodate all who heed the call of Wisdom. The spaciousness and span of the architecture showcase the design of the Creator. The fact that Wisdom’s house is not just one big open interior space reveals that diversity is part of the divine design. The many doors and rooms imply that the cultural contexts within which the pursuit of wisdom takes place are to be respected–not expected to conform to any one norm.

 

Week One•Day Five

Praying

Holy Wisdom, teach us to rejoice before the Lord as you do.
Show us what steps we must take to be free from the pressures of the world that draw us away from you, from your path, from your way.
Purify our hearts so that our eyes become set on you alone.
Guide us to greater and lasting freedom so that we may choose to participate in the life you promise us freely.
Grant us fresh lenses with which to view the world and humanity so that we, too, might delight in the Lord’s magnificent creation.

This Advent, we incline our ears to you.
We come before you, watching daily at your gates and waiting beside your doors.
Equip us with your hospitable nature.
And accompany us as we extend your invitation to all whom we encounter, in Jesus name.

Amen.

 

Week One•Day Six

Contemplating

What does it mean to watch daily at Wisdom’s gates and wait beside her doors? I imagine it is a lot like spending time in contemplation. Poised at the edge of Wisdom’s house, I am removed from the noise of my surrounding area. But yet I am not fully inside her house. Trying to be attentive to the space in which I dwell, I pay no mind to the others who are passing nearby. Trying to be attentive to the presence of Wisdom, herself, I simultaneously try not to get hung up on every word she utters. Slowly she convinces me that I am not meant to grasp her words so firmly, but trust instead that they will settle as they are intended to settle. Finally, I let go. After exhausting myself by trying to strike the perfect balance on the many continuums involved here, I surrender nearly by default. This type of surrender is not something I conjure up; the more I try, the more I resist contemplation. Instead surrendering is like a free fall. Only then does Wisdom welcome me. Beginning from this disposition alone does Wisdom’s teaching find a home within me. As I surrender, Wisdom dances all around me. She writes her delights upon my heart. She carries my burdens, renews me, and gently awakens the insights I need for today.

 

Week One•Day seven

Becoming Christ-like

The pursuit of wisdom is a timeless endeavor. People of all times and cultures have sought after wisdom. To be wise allows one to live with understanding of one’s identity, to make sense of one’s circumstances, and to live in the world in a way that is life-giving and fruitful. While the outward manifestations of wisdom take many forms, wisdom itself is unchanging. Thus the Church invites us to stand on the foundation built by those who have sought the way of wisdom before us. Doing so allows us to embrace the security she provides. As the Church hoists us onto her pillars, we can radiate the light of Christ as the moon reflects the light of the sun.

Many individuals long to walk in the way of insight but do not know where to begin or what that looks like. Christians who sit daily at the gates of the Lord become lights to those who are still finding their way. Wisdom says, “For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord” (Prov. 9:6). May we use our favor for the sake of drawing others into the great banquet Wisdom has prepared, so that all might know her, so that all might find life and live. May we, like Wisdom, be hospitable to all whom we encounter, truly rejoicing in the inhabited world and delighting in the human race.

 


Rachel Gabelman is a Master of Divinity candidate at Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary. She serves as a graduate assistant with Seeing the Word.


2 thoughts on “Illuminating Advent: Seven Pillars of Wisdom

  1. I am pleased and grateful for this Advent resource. And proud that St. John’s is sharing its richness with so many.
    Maranatha…come, Lord Jesus.

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