Advent Meditation: The Gentleness Of Wisdom

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life,
let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom”

Times of transition signal occasions for renewal. We come to the ending of the Church Year and so to the beginning of yet another. The times of endings return us to our beginnings. Advent marks a new beginning.

But what does it mean, these endings which bring us back to our beginnings? What does it mean to begin again? Are we simply trapped in a never-ending cycle, like squirrels on an endless fly-wheel? Is the cycle of the Church Year another dreary round of the same old things in the same old places with the same old faces? Or is it the dance of God’s grace and glory in human lives?

We come to the end of a year of grace and take stock of our lives in the light of God’s grace. It marks a kind of harvest-time for our souls, as it were, a gathering up of the fruits of the past year’s grace in our lives. But it means too, that we are returned to our beginning, to Him who is the foundation and meaning of our lives. The grace is God’s Word revealed.

’In the greyness of the year, comes Christ the King’ (with apologies to T.S. Eliot). Christ strides across the barren fields of humanity to gather us into the barn of his righteousness and truth. We are returned to him who is “the Lord our Righteousness,” our Judge and King, the Shepherd and the Healer of all mankind, the Alpha and the Omega of all creation. Our endings and our beginnings all meet in him. Basil the Great shows us something of what this means:

As all the fruits of the season come to us in their proper time, flowers in spring, corn in summer and apples in autumn, so the fruit for winter is talk.

Talk, you may protest, thank you very much, but we have had enough talk, too much talk in fact, especially, no doubt, preachers’ talk! But talk about what, you might ask? What is the talk in the times of endings, the fruit for winter’s evenings, the talk which marks the occasions for renewed beginnings?

Surely, it is God’s talk, God’s Word and no other, God’s Word making his talk in us. For apart from God’s talk, our talk is vain and destructive, as St. James points out with such graphic directness: “The tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous member … With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God.” Such are the contradictions in us. “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.” As he rightly observes, “My brethren, this ought not to be so.” But it is. As he rightly notes, “no human being can tame the tongue.”

What then can be said either by us or about us? Not much. Yet what is wanted is that we and our words, our souls and our very being, should be brought under the wisdom and the Word of God, “for both we and our words are in his hand,” as The Wisdom of Solomon puts it. What is wanted is that his Word should take shape in us. “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.”

In the meekness of wisdom, in mansuetudine sapientiae, in the gentleness of wisdom, really. It is a wonderful phrase which captures beautifully the point of Wisdom’s prayer: “May God grant that I speak with judgment and have thoughts worthy of what I have received.”

The gentleness of wisdom requires a certain disposition of soul, a certain attitude of mind. It requires an openness to that constant coming of God’s Word to us, “to that which we have received.” It challenges the arrogant assertions of our own petty ‘wisdoms’ and the follies of our complacencies. It brings us under the tutelage of God’s word and wisdom. Then we may say that “both we and our words are in his hand.” Such is the gentleness of wisdom.

We come to an ending only to find that we have come to the beginning, to him who is the foundation of our lives. We find all our endings and all our beginnings in the Father’s Son and Word. We come simply to Christ. And surely, that is the truth of our Christian life. By his Word we have gained the threshold of heaven upon which we may sing and dance, upon which we may sit and talk. What more can we ever say than that? What can our talk be except his Word in us? Then we shall find that we “have thoughts worthy of what [we] have received.” The fruit of our lives must be our talk of Christ, “for both we and our words are in his hand.” That we can begin again is “the gentleness of wisdom.” Begin again so that we might come to him who comes to us, the world’s desire and all our delight.

Fr. David Curry
(2007 revised)

A Christmas Carol

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap,
His hair was like a light.
(O weary, weary were the world,
But here is all aright.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast
His hair was like a star.
(O stern and cunning are the kings,
But here the true hearts are.)

The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart,
His hair was like a fire.
(O weary, weary is the world,
But here the world’s desire.)

The Christ-child stood on Mary’s knee,
His hair was like a crown,
And all the flowers looked up at Him,
And all the stars looked down

by G.K.Chesterton (1874-1936)

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