Wisdom and the Father

“The father of the world, the first being to be fashioned, created alone, he had her for his protector and she delivered him from his fault; she gave him the strength to subjugate all things. But when a sinner in his wrath deserted her, he perished in his fratricidal fury. When because of him the earth was drowned, it was Wisdom again who saved it, piloting the virtuous man on a paltry piece of wood. Again, when, concurring in wickedness, the nations had been thrown into confusion, it was she who singled out the virtuous man, preserved him blameless before God and fortified him against pity for his child.

“It was she who, while the godless perished, saved the virtuous man, as he fled from the fire raining down on the Five Cities, in witness against whose evil ways a desolate land still smokes, where shrubs bear fruit that never ripens and where, monument to an unbelieving soul, there stands a pillar of salt. For, by neglecting the path of Wisdom, not only were they kept from knowledge of the good, they actually left the world a memorial of their folly, so that their crimes might not escape notice. But Wisdom delivered her servants from their ordeals.

“The virtuous man, fleeing from the anger of his brother, was led by her along straight paths. She showed him the kingdom of God and taught him the knowledge of holy things. She brought him success in his toil and gave him full return for all his efforts; she stood by him against grasping and oppressive men and she made him rich. She guarded him closely from his enemies and saved him from the traps they set for him. In an arduous struggle she awarded him the prize, to teach him that piety is stronger than all. She did not forsake the virtuous man when he was sold, but kept him free from sin; she went down to the dungeon with him; she would not abandon him in his chains, but procured for him the sceptre of a kingdom and authority over his despotic masters, thus exposing as liars those who had traduced him, and giving him honour everlasting.

“A holy people and a blameless race, this she delivered from a nation of oppressors. She entered the soul of a servant of the Lord, and withstood fearsome kings with wonders and signs. To the saints she gave the wages of their labours; she led them by a marvellous road; she herself was their shelter by day and their starlight through the night. She brought them across the Red Sea, led them through that immensity of water, while she swallowed their enemies in the waves then spat them out from the depths of the abyss. So the virtuous despoiled the godless; Lord, they extolled your holy name, and with one accord praised your protecting hand, for Wisdom opened the mouths of the dumb and gave speech to the tongues of babes.

“At the hand of a holy prophet, she gave their actions success. They journeyed through an unpeopled wilderness and pitched their tents in inaccessible places. They stood firm against their enemies, fought off their foes. On you they called when they were thirsty, and from the rocky cliff water was given them, from hard stone their thirst was quenched. Thus, what served to punish their enemies became a benefit for them in their distress. You gave them not that ever-flowing source of river water turbid with defiling floods, stern answer for their decree of infanticide, but, against all hope, water in abundance, showing by the thirst that then was raging how severely you punished their enemies.

“From their ordeals, which were no more than the reproofs of Mercy, they learned what tortures a sentence of wrath inflicts on the godless; you tested them indeed, correcting them like a father, but the others you strictly examined, like a severe king who condemns. Near or far away, they were equally worn down, double indeed was the grief that seized on them, double the groaning at the memory of the past; hearing that what punished them had set the others rejoicing, they saw the Lord in it, and for him whom long ago they had cast out, exposed, and later mockingly rebuffed, they felt only amazement when all was done; the thirst of the virtuous and theirs had worked so differently.

“As their foolish and wicked notions led them astray into worshipping mindless reptiles and contemptible beasts, you sent hordes of mindless creatures to punish them and teach them that the instruments of sin are instruments of punishment. And indeed your all-powerful hand did not lack means – the hand that from formless matter created the world – to unleash a horde of bears or savage lions on them or unknown beasts, newly created, full of rage, exhaling fiery breath, ejecting swirls of stinking smoke or flashing fearful sparks from their eyes, beasts not only able to crush them with a blow, but also to destroy them by their terrifying appearance. But even without these, they could have dropped dead at a single breath, pursued by your justice, whirled away by the breath of your power. But no, you ordered all things by measure, number, weight.

“For your great strength is always at your call; who can withstand the might of your arm? In your sight the whole world is like a grain of dust that tips the scales, like a drop of morning dew falling on the ground. Yet you are merciful to all, because you can do all things and overlook men’s sins so that they can repent. Yes, you love all that exists, you hold nothing of what you have made in abhorrence, for had you hated anything, you would not have formed it. And how, had you not willed it, could a thing persist, how be conserved if not called forth by you? You spare all things because all things are yours, Lord, lover of life” (Ws 10:1-21, 11:1-26).