I have already commented on this pre-eminent Advent carol (Day 3), but it is ideal for this last week of Advent because it focuses on the identity of Christ, based on the themes of Jesus’ identity celebrated in the Great ‘O Antiphons’ of Advent. The verse I want to consider is the one on wisdom:
O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
and order all things far and nigh.
To us the path of knowledge show,
and cause us in thy ways to go.
The idea that Jesus is the “wisdom” of God is built primarily from Proverbs, where Solomon personifies wisdom as the one through whom creation is established: “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens.” (3:19); “When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, … then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.” (8:27–31, see Col 1:16).
Icon: Christ as Divine Architect
Wisdom is the one who establishes and rules over the kings and governors: “By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly. (8:15–16). Wisdom calls us to seek him, and promises to come to those who do: “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.” (8:17). Wisdom guides us in righteousness, and teaches us the right way to go: “Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right, … I walk in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice (8:6, 20).
As with every attempt to ‘explain’ or reveal God to us, there are limits to how well it works, and we mustn’t push the analogy too far. In Proverbs Solomon also seems to imply that “wisdom” is created. “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.” (8:22–23). Nonetheless, the analogy does give us insights into some aspects of who Jesus is. In an age not characterized by much reflection or contemplation, it is a call to ponder more diligently on the breadth of Jesus’ person. He is much more than we can imagine.
We also must be aware that he will not fit our categories too easily. He will challenge our reasoning and stand in opposition to many things we consider obvious. “Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Cor. 1:20). There is a purpose in doing this: “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Cor. 1:27–29)
It is helpful to ponder on such things as we prepare for the arrival of the “wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24).
In His grace,