May 14, 2014

Jesus Christ, the Wisdom of God

By Archimandrite Silouan Peponakis

The feast of Mid-Pentecost is a feast of great importance, on which Christ is celebrated as the Wisdom of God.

A broad face, formed with many highlights, with almost rugged features, and a general tendency to avoid the beautification of the Lord, make this stunning icon from the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki (image above). From its title, which is also the title of this article, it is speculated that the icon was originally in the Church of the Holy Wisdom of God in Thessaloniki, and that this church, like many churches, were modeled after the great Church of the Holy Wisdom of God (Hagia Sophia) in Constantinople.

The feast was established in memory of the wandering of the Jews in the desert, when they journeyed from the land of Egypt to the Promised Land, and they celebrated it festively. Like all the feasts of the Old Testament, this also had a symbolic character. In the morning there were burnt sacrifices, while the Priests brought water with wine that they poured on the altar. This symbolized the outpouring of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as the miraculous water the Israelites drank in the desert. After the first day of the feast they lit lamps in the female courtyard of the Temple during the evening sacrifice, and this was seen throughout the city. These two events referred to Christ, because He was the one who gave them water during their journey in the desert ("for they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ." - 1 Cor. 10:4), and He Himself was also the bright cloud ("our ancestors were all under the cloud and they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea." - 1 Cor. 10:1-2).

Christ made His presence felt in the sanctuary teaching the people "at mid-feast". There He declared that he quenches the thirst of people and invited them to come near Him (Jn. 7:37-39). It was during this feast that the Jews led Him before the adulterous woman in order to observe His position on the matter. It was on this feast that Christ taught He was the Light of the world and that the truth liberates humanity. In all the discussions during the days of this feast Christ proclaimed the truth that He was of equal honor with the Father, that it was the Father who sent Him into the world, that He was the Son of God, the promised Messiah.

In our biblical-patristic tradition the word "wisdom" has an enhypostatic character and refers to the Son and Word of God, as the Apostle Paul writes: "For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Greeks, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:22-25).

His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos writes in his book The Feasts of the Lord, in regards to the prayer of Solomon, that the wisdom he sought was not some abstract wisdom, but to stand beside the throne of God ("give me the wisdom that sits by Thy throne, and do not reject me from among Thy servants." - Wisdom of Solomon 9:4). It is that which can help people ("O send her out of Thy holy heavens, and from the throne of Thy glory, that being present she may labor with me, that I may know what is pleasing unto Thee." - Wisdom of Solomon 9:10). Through this God created the world ("...Who hast made all things with Thy word, and ordained man through Thy wisdom, that he should have dominion over the creatures which Thou hast made...." - Wisdom of Solomon 9:1-2). The enhypostatic Wisdom of God is always united with God, knows His counsel and participates in creation ("And wisdom was with Thee: which knoweth Thy works, and was present when Thou madest the world...." - Wisdom of Solomon 9:9). And of course, the salvation of humanity was achieved through it ("For so the ways of them which lived on the earth were reformed, and men were taught the things that are pleasing unto thee, and were saved through wisdom." - Wisdom of Solomon 9:18).

Christ, therefore, is the Word of the Father, for He declares the counsel of the Father. At the same time, His word, His preaching, His teaching is an expression of the energy of the Word and Wisdom of God, and because it is a divine-human word, it contributes to the healing of man.

We know that the names of Christ are the names of His energies, and praying to Him with these names we receive these energies. Christ is the enhypostatic and actual Wisdom of God. By His Incarnation and His sacrifice on the Cross and His Resurrection He gave each of us the opportunity to unite with Him and acquire true wisdom. Into this spirit, may our lives also be integrated.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ιησούς Χριστός η Σοφία του Θεού", May 2000. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.