Christians employ a passage from the Book of Wisdom at the Christmas Midnight Mass readings.
Recall that rabbi Jesus derives from the Wisdom tradition of Israel which emphasized the mystical depths of our encounter with the Divine in nature. Wisdom was in league with the prophetic tradition—she is a “friend of the prophets” and “makes prophets” we are told. Being feminine (Hokmah in Hebrew and Sophia in Greek), Wisdom is partial to the powers of creativity and art, and relates to the cosmos as a whole.
When peaceful silence lay over all, and night had run the half of her swift course, down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word; Into the heart of a doomed land the stern warrior leapt. (Wis. 18.14f)
This poetry touches my soul deeply, often beyond words. It tells how wonderful things happen in the silence and in the night—the via negativa is not to be ignored, it often gives birth to amazing breakthroughs and surprises.
There is lots of leaping going on in this passage—an eagerness for the Word to join us. As for the “royal throne,” elsewhere in the Book of Wisdom we are told that Wisdom ought to be “dispatched from the holy heavens and sent forth from the throne of glory” to assist humankind because she was present when the world was made and she is a helper and teacher who “knows and understands everything.” (9.10f)
But glory depicts a cosmic radiance that fills the whole world–she, Wisdom, “pervades and permeates all things” and “is a reflection of the eternal light, untarnished mirror of God’s active power, image of his goodness,” who “makes all things new.” Indeed, “Her radiance never sleeps.” Is radiance not another word for glory or doxa?
Wisdom, we are told, is “more splendent than the sun and outshines all the constellations; compared with light, she takes first place, for light must yield to night”—while Wisdom operates even in the night, she brings night and light together, and “over Wisdom evil can never triumph.” She “orders all things for good.”
Wisdom is “the mother of all good things” including all the processes of nature and the structure of the world and the properties of the elements, and time, the seasons, stars, animals, beasts, the thoughts of humans, plants and medicines derived from plants.
This Wisdom leaps from the heavenly throne into a “doomed land” entering human history in the form of a “powerful warrior” and an all-powerful Word to bring about healing.
Eckhart recognizes that this Word speaks marvelous things to those who listen in silence and he invites us to experience “pure ignorance, unknowing knowledge that is unencumbered and bare,” along with “pure nothingness.” These experiences offer ways into “darkness, emptiness, solitude and a desert” where we are to remain “still” for what God has prepared for us. “There is where the Father gives birth to the Son in the soul and there is where the soul is addressed.”
See Wisdom 7.10-13; 17-30; 8.1.
See Matthew Fox, Passion for Creation: Meister Eckhart’s Earth-Honoring Spirituality, pp. 245, 59.
The night and the dark are depicted as friendly and inviting to both Wisdom and ourselves. They deliver Wisdom among us. Are we friendly to them in return?
December 22, 2020 — January 1, 2021
Tuition: $50-450 sliding scale
Join us this holiday season for our online Unity in Diversity Symposium: Let the Light Shine. World-renowned spiritual leaders, musicians and artists from different religions and spiritual traditions will inspire us and help us navigate this time of transition.
Matthew Fox will be speaking on Moving from an “Old Normal” to a New Normal: Wisdom from the Mystics – December 30, 2020 (Wed) Online Event – Sivananda Ashram Bahamas: Christmas & New Year Unity in Diversity Symposium: Let the Light Shine
5:30pm-6:45pm PT– Lecture Q&A