May 6, 2015

The Wisdom of God (1 of 4)

On the Feast of Mid-Pentecost, 9 May 2012, Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos was invited to Cyprus by Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus for the inauguration of the Church of God's Wisdom in Nicosia, Cyprus and delivered the homily, titled: "The Wisdom of God". The reason for the consecration being on Mid-Pentecost is because all temples consecrated to the Wisdom of God are traditionally celebrated on Mid-Pentecost, which is the Feast of the Wisdom and Word of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ.

By His Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos
of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

I wanted to warmly thank His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus for the invitation to come to Cyprus today, on this important day of the feast of Mid-Pentecost, and deliver a talk on the theme "The Wisdom of God", in conjunction with the inauguration of the Church of God's Wisdom, which has been determined to be celebrated on the feast of Mid-Pentecost.

For me, Cyprus is a sacred island, an island of saints, that accepted Christianity in the early days following Pentecost, and continues to maintain Hellenism and the Apostolic Tradition, with simplicity, love and in its way of life. I see this every time I come to Cyprus. I not only see the traditions of Hellenism, but the Hellenism that was baptized in the life of the Church, a Christianized Hellenism.

This is why when I come to Cyprus I come as a humble pilgrim and not as a teacher, and in this sense you should view my homily today, which is on a theological, ecclesiastical and patristic level.

I will divide the subject into four individual sections: first, Christ, the Wisdom of God; second, Churches that Bear the Name of Hagia Sophia; third, The Feast of Mid-Pentecost; and fourth, The Journey From the Resurrection to Pentecost.

1. Christ, the Wisdom of God

It is a basic teaching of the Fathers of the Church that the difference between the Old and New Testament is that the Old Testament records the appearances of the pre-incarnate Word, the Angel of Great Counsel, the Wisdom of God, while the New Testament records the revelation of the incarnate Word. For this reason, one of the names of Christ is Wisdom of God. According to Fr. George Florovsky, "the name Wisdom is a biblical name" used by the Apostle Paul. Indeed, the Apostle Paul, referring to the Jews and Greeks of his time, says that the Jews seek for a sign and the Greeks seek for wisdom, "but we preach Christ crucified, a scandal to the Jews, foolishness to the Greeks, while to those who have been called among the Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:22-24). Further on he writes: "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30).

It is usually said that in the Old Testament Christ is referred to as the Messiah. But this is not correct, because in the Old Testament the Messiah was, as the word indicates, anointed, referring to kings and prophets, who were called by God and anointed for a special mission in Israel. Hence, the Messiah in the Old Testament was a man. But the Second Person of the Holy Trinity in the Old Testament was known as the Angel of Great Counsel, the Wisdom of God. Above all, the name Wisdom of God is found in the books of the Old Testament known as Proverbs and Wisdom of Solomon, and this refers to Christ.

Thus, Christ was not the Messiah, or a man born of the Virgin Mary, but He was the pre-incarnate Word who assumed human nature by the incarnation, and was anointed by the divine nature and became the Messiah to save the human race, and snatch it from the devil, death and sin. Fr. George Florovsky observes that "the recognition of 'Wisdom' as one of the names of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity became commonplace in patristic hermeneutics and theology. Origen considers the name 'Wisdom' as the first and foremost name of the Son. And 'Wisdom' and 'Power' are referred to in the Creed of Saint Gregory of Neocaesarea. In the fourth century the Arians and Orthodox agreed that Holy Wisdom as described in the book of Proverbs was the Son of God."

The wise Solomon, when praying to the God of our Fathers and the Lord of mercy, says among others things: "Give me the wisdom that sits by your throne, and do not reject me from among your servants... With you is wisdom, she who knows your works and was present when you made the world; she understands what is pleasing in your sight and what is right according to your commandments. Send her forth from the holy heavens, and from the throne of your glory send her, that she may labor at my side, and that I may learn what is pleasing to you. For she knows and understands all things, and she will guide me wisely in my actions and guard me with her glory. Then my works will be acceptable, and I shall judge your people justly, and shall be worthy of the throne of my father" (Wis. of Sol. 9:1-12).

It is clear that the wise Solomon here speaks of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, who is the Wisdom of God the Father, and is beside the throne of the glory of God from the foundation of the world, and he asks that He may send Him to guide him through his ministry.

That the Word of God is the Wisdom of God is shown by the word "Wisdom" or "Sophia", which is either spoken of by itself or as a call out during the divine Services, such as "Wisdom, arise, let us be attentive," and before the sentence "Blessed is He who is, Christ our true God," and during Vespers after the Service of Artoklasia before the sentence "The blessing of the Lord and His mercy come upon us." It seems clear that the association between Wisdom, who is the Word of God, with these sentences, refer to Him. Also, "Wisdom" is said during the Small Entrance of the Divine Liturgy, when the Deacon of Priest raises the sacred Gospel, because within it are contained the words of Christ.

For this reason, Christians are called to stand up and confer respect towards the Wisdom of God, namely the Word of God, Christ. This word, "Wisdom", is also said before the Apostolic and Gospel readings, because in these are contained the words of Christ and the Apostles, who are members of the Body of Christ. For the same reason "Wisdom" is said in the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts before "The Light of Christ shines upon all," and during Vespers before "O Gladsome Light, of the holy glory," which also refer to Christ.

Because we referred to the Wisdom of God described in the Old Testament, as well as in the Apostle Paul as understood to be the Word of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity - Who is indeed the Wisdom of God - we will also make reference to the major issue of Sophiology, which is a philosophical/theological teaching with a Gnostic element, as it was expressed by certain Russian thinkers. While the Fathers of the Church clearly designate the Wisdom of God as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, a group of Russian thinkers/theologians spoke of wisdom or sophia in a different way.

First, Vladimir Soloviev described wisdom as "a female of supreme beauty," as "the eternal feminine," as "the truest, purest, and most complete humanity, the highest and all-encompassing form and living soul of nature and the universe, eternally united, and in the process of time uniting with the Divine, and uniting to Him all that is." Pavel Florensky, referring to wisdom, says that it is spiritual beauty, the fourth hypostasis participating in the life of the Holy Trinity. However, more than those prior to him, Bulgakov does not associate the Wisdom of God with Christ, but with the essence of God that is common to the three persons. According to him, wisdom is the same as the idea of God, the eternal prototype of the creation of the world by God, and sometimes appears as a mediated existence between God and His creation, and sometimes identified with God or creation.

The teaching that Wisdom is, as it were, a fourth hypostasis of the Holy Trinity, was condemned as a heresy by the Russian Church itself, because this theory leads to the danger of mysticism, Gnosticism and pantheism. According to the settled teaching of the Holy Fathers of the Church, as we previously saw, the Wisdom of God is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Word of God who became man and conquered death, the devil and sin.

Thus, Christ is the Wisdom of God, "the repose of all of creation." Characteristic is what Saint Nicholas Cabasilas says about Christ: He gives birth to Christians, He raises them and nourishes them, He is their light and breath. Christ produces the spiritual eye, illuminates it and provides it with the power to see. Christ is our subsistence, providing us with the bread of life, but He also is our food. He is the way. He gives us the strength to walk, and He is the destination and end to this path. When we struggle, He struggles with us. He organizes the contest, and when we are victorious he becomes the crown of our victory.

Translated by John Sanidopoulos