Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Living as a Christian Mystic

In both the canonical literature (Proverbs) and in the Apocrypha (Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon) divine wisdom is personified as Lady Wisdom (the Greek word for wisdom is the feminine noun sophia). Lady Wisdom/Sophia is described with divine attributes and characteristics. In Proverbs 8:22-31 she was the first thing created and participated with God in the creation of the world and is now present everywhere. In the Wisdom of Solomon she is described as “a spotless mirror of the working of God and an image of his goodness.” She “pervades and penetrates all things.”

This is the same language used in the prologue/introduction of the Gospel of John. The language of Lady Wisdom is used to talk about the Word (Logos) that “became flesh.” This Word/Wisdom is the light that is in all people (John 1:4) and enlightens everyone (John 1:9). This same language is applied to Christ in Colossians 1:15-20 who is described “as the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (this is right out of Proverbs and the Wisdom of Solomon). “In him” (Christ here takes the place of Lady Wisdom), says the writer, “all things hold together.” Then the writer envisions “all things, whether on earth or in heaven,” being reconciled to God by Christ (Christ here the symbol for the Wisdom of God – love, grace, truth, etc – that became incarnate in Jesus). In 1 Cor. 1:24 Paul identifies Christ, especially his cross, with the Wisdom of God.

Now, I know this sounds like pretty heavy stuff. I think that in many ways ancient peoples were more adept than we are in reading religious language metaphorically, symbolically, and spiritually. We have a tendency to literalize such language.

One of the really important truths to be gleaned from this, I’m convinced, is that the Divine Wisdom (God, Sophia, the Christ, Holy Spirit, use whatever language you are comfortable with), which we have come to know and experience in a special way through the human person of Jesus, is the light in all of us.

In the Wisdom of Solomon Lady Wisdom is described as the “breath of the power of God and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty.” This is the breath/Spirit that sustains our lives. This light (Spirit, life force, wisdom) is with and in all of us. We bear God’s image. We are all as Paul says in Acts 17 “God’s offspring” in whom the Divine dwells (“in him we live, move, and have our existence”).

The practical truth that can be gleaned from this is that we all came from God and live in God and will be brought together in God. The problem is that so many of us don’t realize our divine birthright and destiny, and therefore we live as if we are on our own.

What would it mean for us to wake up every morning and say, “God lives in me. God is in me and I’m in God. I bear God’s image and I am God’s son/daughter. Help me today, O Compassionate One, to live as the Christ. Let me be aware of your participation in my life and help me to be led by your Spirit so that I might cooperate with you in the work of mercy and justice that you want to see done in the world.” What a difference we could make!

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