Saturday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
At the time Sirach was being written, there was a crisis within Judaism. Israelites were in contact with Greek culture and learning, and were greatly attracted to it, even to the point of forsaking Judaism and the covenant with God. Sirach, like other Wisdom writings in the Old Testament, labors to show how wisdom can also be found within Judaism, and is fully compatible with it. How they do this is not simply some abstract treatise on wisdom but, like we see in today’s reading, wisdom is portrayed as a person.
Lady Wisdom is not a set of rules, but someone to fall in love with. Sirach speaks of how his “heart delighted in her.” Wisdom and holiness are not simply a matter of doing our universal and abstract duty. It is a matter of a relationship. In this relationship with Lady Wisdom, we are able to grow and flourish. She can “give great instruction,” but only in that relationship of love and trust. Intellectual assent is important, but never enough. God does not simply want our minds. He wants our whole selves, with nothing held back. Nothing less than a total falling in love will suffice.
Grace: An intimate knowledge of the many blessings received, that filled with gratitude for all, I may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty.
Reflection: In the meditation upon sin, we made reference to Dante’s vision of hell, a cold, desolate place where the fire of love has been extinguished and all lies in a spiritual torpor. This is the perfect image of the heart grown cold to the stirrings of love which God places within it. At the opposite end of Dante’s journey lies a vision that perfectly encapsulates the final meditation of the Spiritual Exercises, the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love. From the lowest reaches of the spiritual universe, Dante ascends to the heights of heaven, where he views “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.” At the heart of the universe lives the Trinitarian God, whose perfect love draws all being into an ordered symphony of praise. Dante feels himself drawn into this harmonic vision through the enflaming of his passions and desires. No one with eyes to see can sit impassively at the vision of God’s love. From the disordered state in which Dante had fallen at the beginning of the poem, he becomes progressively cleansed of his disordered affections through the grace of God and the intercession of Beatrice until finally he is able to pass through the heavens and stand in the presence of God. But notice that Dante only sees God’s depths after he has been interiorly transformed.