A friend of mine directed me to a passage from the Book of Wisdom some time ago, saying that she felt the Lord wanted me to receive it. It expresses a theme often found in the “wisdom books” of the Bible, like Proverbs, Wisdom, and Sirach (sometimes called Ecclesiasticus).
The passage is this: “Wisdom rescued from troubles those who served her… she guided [the righteous man] on straight paths; she showed him the kingdom of God, and gave him knowledge of angels [literally, “of the holies”] and prospered him in his labors, and increased the fruit of his toil… She protected him from his enemies and kept him safe from those who lay in wait for him; in his arduous contest she gave him the victory, so that he might learn that godliness is more powerful than anything” (10:9-12).
The identity of the mysterious Old Testament figure “Wisdom” (Greek Sophia; the Books of Wisdom and Sirach are written in Greek) is a bit too complicated to explain in detail here. But tradition has in some respects identified Wisdom with the Holy Spirit and in others with Mary, the Mother of God, who is sometimes called the “Seat of Wisdom.” As I mentioned a few posts back, Mary and the Holy Spirit have been intimately united ever since her immaculate conception. The most concise summary we can make here is that the texts that seem to speak of Wisdom as divine would refer to the Holy Spirit, and those that speak of Wisdom as a created being or that refer to God in the third person, as the text above, would be prefigurations of Our Lady.
In the book of Wisdom, “Sophia” is described as Creator (7:22, 8:6) and Savior (9:18), as omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient (7:23-24, 9:11). These attributes clearly belong only to a Divine Being, the Holy Spirit, and not to a creature, however exalted. Scripture also says that Sophia can do all things, renews all things, orders all things, and effects all things (Wisdom 7:27 – 8:5), and that she is “a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty…She is a reflection of eternal light…” (Wisdom 7:25). “Reflection” is somewhat ambiguous and can be interpreted in ways that could mean either the Divine Spirit or a holy person created by God. Mary is often likened to the moon, which brightly shines but is not the source of its own light; it reflects the light of the sun, as Mary is not the source of her own glory but rather reflects the Light of her Son.
In other texts, Wisdom says, “the Lord created me…” (Prv. 8:22), so this cannot refer to the Holy Spirit. Liturgical texts often make use of the Wisdom Books for feasts of Our Lady, where we read passages like, “he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord” (Prv. 8:35).
Anyway, all that is not the main point here; I want to take a look at godliness (Greek eusebeia). Eusebeia (from eu sebomai) means not just godliness in the sense of righteousness or piety, but worship, adoration, and reverence (thus to be pious is most properly to worship well). And Scripture says that godliness is more powerful than anything. This is the lesson, the wisdom, that Our Lady will teach us from Heaven—for “the Lord of all loves her; she is an initiate in the knowledge of God, and an associate in his works” (Wis. 8:3-4)—if we will only listen to her and receive her guidance. She rescues from troubles those who serve her… she guides us on straight paths; she shows us the kingdom of God, and teaches us about holy things. She protects us from our enemies and keeps us safe from those who lay in wait for us; in our arduous contests she helps us gain the victory. Why does she do all this? “So that [we] might learn that godliness is more powerful than anything.”
The power of true worship and prayer is largely ignored today, even by those who consider themselves believers. Nowadays, it seems that there are few people who really understand or accept (or remember the centuries-long tradition) that prayer is actually essential to life, and for some is even a way of life, not merely some sort of spiritual capital for ensuring the success of more important projects. True adoration of the Lord—especially the Holy Eucharist—is not something He requires because He likes people to worship Him. God knows that for us to adore Him is to connect with the ultimate Truth, with infinite Love, Goodness, and Beauty. This is what will make us supremely and eternally happy, so this is what He wants for us. A rich fruit of the value of eusebeia is the spiritual power it unleashes into the world to enlighten, cleanse, and heal it. For godliness is more powerful than anything.
So let us remember to invoke our heavenly Mother, the Seat of Wisdom—being filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit—and let us allow her to guide us in the ways of godliness. “For she teaches self-control and prudence, justice and courage… Therefore I determined to take her to live with me, knowing that she would give me good counsel and encouragement in cares and grief… for companionship with her has no bitterness… and in friendship with her there is pure delight… and in the experience of her company, understanding… I perceived I would not possess wisdom unless God gave her to me—and it was a mark of insight to know whose gift she was—so I appealed to the Lord and besought him, and with my whole heart I said… ‘Send her forth from the holy heavens, and from the throne of your glory send her, that she may be with me and toil, and that I may learn what is pleasing to you…’” (Wis. 8-9).
Those who wield military, economic, ideological or political power may be having their day at the moment, but true worshippers of God and children of Mary will in the end prove them all to be impotent failures. For godliness is more powerful than anything.