Of all the wonderful teachings in the wisdom literature of Israel, a tradition that includes Job, Psalms, Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, Sirach, the Song of Songs, Lamentations, Proverbs and more is the following passage from Wisdom 7:17-22. It is one of my favorite Biblical passages.
Simply I learned about Wisdom…
the design of the universe,
the force of its elements,
beginning and end of time,
changes in the sun’s course,
variation of seasons,
cycles of years,
positions of stars,
natures of animals,
tempers of beasts,
powers of winds,
thoughts of humanity,
uses of plants,
virtues of roots.
Such things as are hidden
I learned, for Wisdom,
the artisan of all,
Why do I appreciate this text so much? First, it begins where both science and healthy religion urge us to begin: With the universe. The poem is about cosmology–like Genesis one is—this passage begins where the Bible begins. It does not begin with the human but with what preceded us and birthed us: the universe and its design and elements; time which includes the sun’s course and seasons and years; the stars and animals, beasts and winds.
And ONLY then do humans come along with their “thoughts.” How much preceded the thoughts of humanity! Well past half way through the poem arrives humanity—all that is mentioned beforehand precedes humans and human thoughts. Not only preceded it but inspired it and made it possible.
Like today’s creation story from science, 13.8 billion years preceded any thoughts from humans or about humans. This is why cosmology must be grasped and loved to begin to appreciate and understand who humans are and how utterly interdependent we are with other accomplishments and other beings in the universe. Plants and animals preceded us—often by billions of years.
This text reads like a menu for scientists to study and explore. Immediately following on humanity is our appreciation of plants and the uses we put them to—to eat, to heal, to admire and wonder at for their beauty, and to understand for the powers or virtues of their roots—what good uses we can put them to.
The poem is a paean to human knowledge and science.
And it is Wisdom, who is the artisan of all, who does the teaching. To say Wisdom is an artist or “artisan of all” is like Aquinas saying that God is the “artist of artists” and Hildegard of Bingen celebrating how there is “wisdom in all creative works.” It hints loudly of our role as images of God the artist or Wisdom the artisan.
Recall that these wisdom teachings instructed the historical Jesus in a big way.
We are exceptionally creative beings—there lies our genius but also our danger.
Surely it is in meditating in depth on Wisdom and wisdom literature of the Bible, that Julian offered her gift of love of nature, of God-in-Nature and of goodness in nature and of the motherhood of God.
See Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond.
And Matthew Fox,.Hildegard of Bingen: A Saint for Our Times, pp 81-95.
Banner Image: “Biologic Nitrogen Cycle” depicting the interdependence of plants and animals with the soil ecosystem. From Wikimedia Commons
What does it mean to you to hear that Wisdom is “artisan of all”? And that Wisdom is an instructor in cosmology, an understanding of the whole? A whole that is far larger and more ancient than the human and the accomplishments of the human?
Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond
Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.” –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.
Hildegard of Bingen, A Saint for Our Times: Unleashing Her Power in the 21st Century
Matthew Fox writes in Hildegard of Bingen about this amazing woman and what we can learn from her.
In an era when women were marginalized, Hildegard was an outspoken, controversial figure. Yet so visionary was her insight that she was sought out by kings, popes, abbots, and bishops for advice.
“This book gives strong, sterling, and unvarnished evidence that everything – everything – we ourselves become will affect what women after us may also become….This is a truly marvelous, useful, profound, and creative book.” ~~ Andrew Harvey, author of The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism.