Friday, 4 October 2013

2. Wisdom and the Senses

The Bible contains a section of "Wisdom" literature, in which the figure of Wisdom (a feminine word rendered into Greek as Sophia and Latin as Sapientia) emerges as a kind of image and confirmation of God's infinite Beauty. More than an allegorical figure, I think, since she has appeared "in person" to visionaries such as Vladimir Solovyev, Sophia is one of the topics of The Radiance of Being, and here I want to add some notes and further thoughts to accompany the book.

Wisdom is not to be identified with – though she is closely associated with – the Logos, the Son of God, or the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us she was created, but created before all else, and a participant in the creation of the world as a whole. "The Lord himself created Wisdom in the Holy Spirit; he saw her and apportioned her, he poured her out upon all his works. She dwells with all flesh according to his gift, and he supplied her to those who love him" (Sirach 1:9-10). "I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, the first-born before all creatures. I ordained that an unfailing light should arise in the heavens, and I covered the earth like a mist. I dwelt in high places, and my throne was a pillar of cloud" (Sirach 24:3-4).
Whether the "unfailing light" she refers to is the sun, or else more likely (because day gives way to night) the primordial angelic"light" that was created in Genesis 1:3, she associates herself with the "mist that watered the ground" in Genesis 2:6, from which all life began to arise, and protected Adam even after his fall (Wisdom 10:1).

Her nature and role is described most fully in the Wisdom of Solomon, 7:22-8:1. She is the "fashioner of all things", a "breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty", a "reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness", who both sits beside his throne and descends to earth.

As such, Wisdom is both before and after "creation" – or she is the intermediary between them and the God in whom all being resides. She is what he has in mind, and what he brings about, in his unitary eternity, the eternal Now. In her is revealed God's beauty, which is his Glory, mysterious until the coming of the Son into the world. That Glory is the integration of creation into the eternal self-giving love of the Trinity. It is God's own from eternity, a Glory to which nothing can be added, but at the same time it is (from the creature's point of view, which God shares through his outgoing love) the addition of a gift freely given by all the world of creatures, offered through man in the person of the Church.

Balthasar's treatment of the spiritual senses begins with St Augustine and moves quickly through the medievals to his modern allies: Barth, Guardini, Siewert, Claudel. For Romano Guardini, the Holy Spirit intends to "create that eye which is to behold God 'face to face'," for as Balthasar summarizes, "the roots of the eye lie in the heart – in the innermost stance adopted towards other persons and existence as a whole. Finally, the eye sees from the heart. This is what Augustine meant when he said that love alone is capable of seeing" (Glory of the Lord, I, p. 392).

It is not, of course, Balthasar adds, God's unmediated essence that is seen, but his power and glory, expressed in his works. This ties us back to what was said about Wisdom in the previous post. The spiritual senses, which are the senses of the inner man, and are most highly developed in our Lady and in Jesus himself, are there to reveal God's Glory, his Wisdom, the embodied plan from all ages that is coming into being day by day and yet is ever already anticipated in the eternal consciousness of God, the supreme "I AM." And in heaven, in Beatific Vision, these senses are transcended in the lumen gloriae. "Like knows like," and the soul sees God by means of the eye by which God sees himself – namely his own intellectual act, proportionately received in the creature.

No comments:

Post a Comment