Wisdom is a multi-faceted jewel of inestimable value. It is much more than the ability to make good decisions or avoid foolish ones. In fact, it doesn’t start with what we do at all. Its foundation and starting point is how we see. Because how we see determines what we see.
Wisdom is seeing through the eyes of our awakened hearts and minds as they are transformed into the heart and mind of Christ. Seeing in this way changes everything because when we do, we see the interconnectedness and hidden wholeness of everything in existence. We see God’s presence at work and at play in the heart of the cosmos and we know that this Divine Presence is the foundation of creation and our own truest and deepest self.
Thomas Merton’s prose-poem, Hagia Sophia, is a profound meditation on this Divine Presence. It begins with the following words:
There is in all visible things an invisible fecundity, a dimmed light, a meek namelessness, a hidden wholeness. This mysterious Unity and Integrity is Wisdom, the Mother of all, Natura naturans.
There is in all things an inexhaustible sweetness and purity, a silence that is a fount of action and joy. It rises up in wordless gentleness and flows out to me from the unseen roots of all created being, welcoming me tenderly, saluting me with indescribable humility.
This is at once my own being, my own nature, and the Gift of my Creator’s Thought and Art within me, speaking as Hagia Sophia, speaking as my sister, Wisdom. I am awakened; I am born again at the voice of this my Sister, sent to me from the depths of the divine fecundity.[i]
My heart soars in response to these words, even though my head cannot fully grasp what they mean.
But what is this hidden wholeness, inexhaustible sweetness, and wordless gentleness that forms part of everything in existence? How does it fit with the brokenness of everything, with all of creation groaning as it awaits its restoration?[ii]
I cannot expect to answer these questions with my mind. But I can ponder them in my heart. And when I do I a surge of feel consoling awe and mystical hope.
Seeing the hidden wholeness in all things is seeing God in all things. Because God is the source of everything in existence the hidden wholeness in all things is nothing less than God. This is the theological foundation for the wholeness that exists in all things. It’s a theology that starts with the original blessing of God’s out-flowing self and presence in everything, not with more visible brokenness with which we are all too familiar. The brokenness is quite apparent and quite real. But the wholeness, although hidden, is much deeper and fundamentally more real than the brokenness because it is the God-self manifest in all things.
But how can we actually know this truth, not simply believe it. How can we increasingly see the hidden wholeness that is in all created things and hear the voice of the Silent One who speaks everywhere, particularly in the depths of our own soul and in the depths of our own brokenness?
The route to this seeing and knowing is seeing through the mind and heart of Christ. Fortunately, this isn’t as abstract as it might sound. Jesus shows us what it is to see through the mind and heart of Christ. So, the question now becomes, what did Jesus see? The answer is that Jesus saw God in everything and everyone.
James Finley elaborates:
What’s fascinating about this is that it didn’t seem to matter whether Christ saw the joy of those gathered at a wedding or the sorrow of those gathered at the funeral of a loved one. It didn’t matter whether Christ saw his own mother or a prostitute. It didn’t matter whether Christ saw a person of great wealth and power or a poor widow dropping her last coin in the box. It didn’t really matter whether Jesus saw his own disciples or his executioners. It didn’t matter whether he saw a flower or a bird. Jesus saw God in all that he saw. And Jesus says to each of us “You have eyes to see but you do not see.[iii]
When the eyes of our heart are awakened and we see through the heart and mind of Christ we see the Divine Presence in all things. We see earth as a manifestation of God – the first incarnation of God. We see all of creation throbbing with God’s presence as it becomes new and whole in Christ. We hear the inner voice of Wisdom and begin to recognize that this is both our own deepest nature and at the same time, the gift of God’s presence within us. We recognize everything and everyone as a manifestation of God, and as our brothers and sisters. We know that everything belongs because everything is already part of the wholeness of Christ.
This is the beginning of wisdom. Everything else that is wisdom flows from this knowing.
[i] Thomas Merton, “Hagia Sophia,” in Emblems of a Season of Fury (New York: New Directions, 1963), 66.
[ii] Romans 8: 22.
[iii] James Finley, The Living Wisdom of Meister Eckhart (a 6-CD set of meditations published by SoundsTrue and available at https://www.soundstrue.com/store/meister-eckhart-s-living-wisdom-5959.html