O Sapientia

Here is the text of a reflection given by one of our sisters on today’s Magnificat Antiphon, which invokes Christ as Wisdom (Sapientia).(If you prefer to listen, click the ‘play’ button in the box below). 
This evening we sing at Vespers the first of the seven ‘O’ Antiphons – “O Wisdom!”  With these antiphons we reach the climax of the Advent Liturgy.  To quote from the ‘Catechism of the Catholic Church’ (CCC): “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for in sharing in the long preparation for the Saviour’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for His second coming.” (CCC 524)
Our first “O” antiphon translates from the Latin:
‘O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from end to end, mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.’
In this antiphon we call on Eternal Wisdom, which is personified in the Logos, the eternal Word of the Father, through Whom the world was made and in the fullness of time took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit. “Reaching from end to end of the universe, mightily and sweetly ordering all things.”  Here we see the Wisdom of God in His providential care of our world.  God cares for all from the least things to the greatest.  I’m sure each of us here can see the hand of Divine Providence in their lives, as it says in the Book of Deuteronomy, “The LORD carried you as a man carries his child, all along the road you travelled” (Dt 1:31b).  Often it is in the small events of daily living that we see and are touched by the loving hand of Providence – some matter inadvertently overlooked is providentially taken care of; or maybe a couple of events coincide and it is too late to intervene, then unexpectedly one of the parties cancels the appointment or another is delayed in traffic or the like, so all can be easily taken care of.  This reminds us of what Jesus Himself says in the Gospel: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny and not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing it.  As for you, the hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not be afraid: you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows” (cf. Mt 10:29-31).  The marvellous doctrine of Divine Providence gives us the greatest confidence in our heavenly Father’s care of us.  But what shall we say of the great evil and violence that has existed in the world since the first parents?  … and which we have been witnessing in recent months?  Today’s news brings another horrific story of suffering of the innocent in the violence and massacres in Pakistan.  To try to say something, to quote St Augustine,
“For the Almighty God, who, … has supreme power over all things, being Himself supremely good, would never permit the existence of anything evil among His works, if He were not so omnipotent and good that He can bring good even out of evil.”[2]
The death and Resurrection of Jesus has demonstrated powerfully the victory of God over evil – the greatest and worst – so we can trust God, Who ‘… in everything .. works for good for those who love him …” (Rom 8:28).
It is in Jesus the Babe of Bethlehem that we see God’s surpassing Wisdom and Providence.  He is eternal Wisdom come among us as one of us to redeem and save us.  So in our antiphon we cry out, “Come and teach us the way of prudence.”  Some of us might consider that a very prosaic request to make of Eternal Wisdom.  The virtue of prudence sometimes has negative overtones in peoples’ minds.  The Catechism seems to have anticipated that for it says, “Prudence is not to be confused with timidity or fear, nor with duplicity of dissimulation” (CCC 1806).  It says, ‘Prudence disposes the practical reason to discern in every circumstance our true good and to choose the right means of achieving it” (CCC 1835).  I think it could be summed up in the Prayer after Communion that occurs frequently during Advent, which prays that, “we judge wisely the things of earth and love the things of heaven.”