Tonight they begin, the seven prophetic antiphons chanted before and after the Magnificat at Vespers. Each invokes the Messiah by one of his scriptural titles, and each calls on us to prepare a place for him–at his coming now and at his Final Coming–with an attitude that demonstrates our readiness.
So, for December 17,
O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodidisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviter disponensque omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
O Wisdom, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come, and teach us the way of prudence.
In Scripture, Wisdom is personified as a figure of delight, rejoicing in the dance of creation (Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31), and as a woman who suffers no fools at her banquet table (Proverbs 9:1-12). Wisdom’s name in Greek is Sophia, and those who love her (philosophers) are rewarded (Wisdom 6:13-21).
Prudence is the gift with which we welcome Holy Wisdom, the virtue of making good choices, picking our battles, and living practically in this world with our eyes on the prize of the next. In classical iconography, the cardinal virtue of Prudence is depicted holding a mirror that reflects Truth and a serpent (not as in the Tempter, but the serpent Jesus said we should be wise as). Prudence is what helps us Keep Calm and Wisdom On. Jesus, do we need that one this week!
As the imprudent and the impudent take to the cyberstreets to fling poo at one another, O Wisdom, grant us holy silence and the virtue of just shutting up for chrissakes.
As the Holy Father, whose birthday this is, continues to be raised up as a sign of contradiction for all, O Wisdom, help us to consider him not as a theologian or a pop hero, a revolutionary or a buffoon, but as what Jose Maria Anancedo, author of the Prologue to a new collection of Archbishop Bergoglio’s writings, calls Francis: a down-to-earth, prayerful man with a “sapiential perspective.” In other words, there’s a deep core of prudence at the heart of all this kerfuffle. Maybe we can meet there.
As the nights grow long, O Wisdom, teach us how short are the days we have here. May we use our time wisely, in Your service. O come, Thou Wisdom!