Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Advent Weekday: December 17

Judges 13:2-7,24-25
Psalm 71
Luke 1:5-25

REFLECTION: “O Sapientia”
Today is a very busy day, liturgically speaking. We move into the final days of Advent, and so our readings shift to anticipating the celebration of our Lord's birth at Christmas. Today is also the memorial of St. Olympias, a deaconess who served the Church in the late fourth and early fifth centuries.  A widow, she dedicated her substantial inheritance to the service of the poor, and ultimately was consecrated as a deaconess by the bishop of Constantinople. She quickly formed in her home a hospital and an orphanage, and welcomed other widows and consecrated women to share in her ministry to the sick and the abandoned. Ultimately, though, when political fortunes changed, she found herself on the outs with the civil government. Her house was padlocked, but her ministry continued until her death in the year 408.

In her life, Olympias used spiritual discernment and God's gift of wisdom to pursue ministry to those on the margins. But wisdom goes far beyond that. On this day, when the first of the ancient "O Antiphons" rings out before and after the Gospel Canticles at Morning and Evening Prayer, we celebrate the gift of wisdom... and we pray for the grace to bring it more deeply into our lives.

Those of you who may not be familiar with the "O Antiphons" would probably recognize today's when set within the following context:

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

This text, as you probably recognize, is from the hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel, which is based on these ancient antiphons, some of which are mentioned as early as the 5th century.

Wisdom is a vital gift that God seeks to pour out upon each of us; and, while worldly wisdom - which may fail us at times - has many sources, the faultless wisdom that should empower the lives of Christian believers has but a single source - the Spirit of God.

As Samson grew, the Spirit of God moved within him. He found wisdom there. Elizabeth and Zechariah were filled with the wisdom to follow the commandments of God with purity and passion. Indeed, in our psalm today, the author of Psalm 71 shows us that God is teaching each of us from our earliest days. He seeks to fill us with wisdom, and, through wisdom, with peace.

The wisdom that we, today, as Christians are called to bear, is not simply a wrote understanding of biblical command, nor is it a dutiful sense of obligation about worship, prayer, or divine studies. We are called, as followers of Christ, to live a balanced life of service, compassion, and fidelity to the truth. Doctrine is important, but so is action. Wisdom helps us to strike that balance. Wisdom leads us prudently in trusting God, in serving God, and touching others, and in sustaining ourselves. Wisdom is vital to a life of wholeness, and it is a gift that we should earnestly seek day by day.

And so, today, we pray for wisdom. Wisdom to grow in the Spirit like Samson; wisdom to grow in trust like Zechariah; wisdom to grow in joy like Elizabeth; wisdom to grow in service like Olympias; wisdom to grow into the full stature of Christ, who lives and reigns forever and ever.

Today, after communing with God, give earnest consideration to how the Spirit generates divine wisdom within your life, and pray for the courage to walk in those ways of wisdom as you encounter the challenges of daily life.