Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Column: Wisdom walks among us

Mary, Throne of Wisdom
St. John's Abbey Church
This column is the sixth in a series on the readings from the Easter Vigil for CatholicPhilly.  The reading is Baruch 3:9-15, 32 and 4:4 .  You can find all of CatholicPhilly's Lenten material here, including editor Matt Gambino's reflection on the collects for the Sundays in Lent. This piece appeared at CatholicPhilly on 17 March 2015. 

Learn where prudence is, 
where strength, where understanding; 
that you may know also where are length of days, 
and life, where light of the eyes, and peace. Baruch 3:14

A few weeks ago, on a snowy morning, there were only three of us at church for Morning Prayer. With so few the pastor proposed we recite the psalm verses in turn, rather than alternating sides of the chapel as we usually do. As each psalm moved from Richard, to Father Denny and back to me again, I was struck by how very alive the psalms seemed, as if the Holy Spirit were dancing over our heads, her breath in our mouths, her voice resounding in ours.

In this sixth of the seven readings set out for the Easter Vigil, the prophet Baruch speaks similarly of wisdom appearing on earth, moving among the people. She is, he says, the book of the precepts of God. Turn toward her, let her light direct your steps, cling to her and have life.

I hear in this reading a powerful reminder of the great gift of Sacred Scripture, God’s Word made manifest in time, the Spirit continually breathing into us life and wisdom. The Catechism of the Church reminds us that we should venerate the Scriptures as we venerate the Lord’s Body (CCC 103). They, too, are the bread of life, broken open for us on the altar. Scripture is not a historical document, but is alive and moving among us even now.

In his book The Art of Biblical Poetry scripture scholar Robert Alter writes of the ways in which the psalms sweep “to-and-fro,” moving us from the stuff of the earth — bees and mud and pounding waves — to gaze on God — in the stars, in the mountain fastness, walking the earth unseen. In Alter’s own beautifully poetic translation of the psalms he sought more than just the right words, he sought out the movements within each psalm, the ways in which the psalmist used the structure of these sacred poems to say what words alone could not capture. The psalms take flesh on these bones.

Baruch reminds us that Scripture is more than the law. Here we find fountains of wisdom, of strength, of understanding. Here there is delight, glory and joy. Here, grace and peace. As we enter into these final days of Lent, let us remember that the Word of God has taken flesh and dwells among us even now. May we cling to the Word, and have life.

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