quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem,
fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.
Sapientia, “wisdom,” from the verb sapio/sapere, “to discern.” Distinguished (in this blog, at least) from scientia, “knowledge,” from scio/scire, “to know.” We are not merely homo sciens, merely knowing facts. We are homo sapiens, gifted the ability to use that knowledge in order to act rightly according to the order of the universe.
Every December 17, Advent names our lack of sapientia, our inability to grasp the order of the universe in its totality “from one end to the other.” It names our inability to know “the way of prudence,” our inability, on our own, to truly be ourselves, fulfill our vocation as homo sapiens. Advent does so by calling out our need for sapientia, our need for One to “come and teach us” this viam prudentiae.
I worry that even scientia has broken down: oil companies and their politicians tell us to distrust the scientific consensus that our means of production have weakly and sourly disordered our climate, our planet. The news sources we used to accept our now conveniently swept aside, allowing corruption to fester even in the heart of democracy.
We need to learn anew our ability to discern truth from falsehood, to hear the voice of the Most High, to see how this voice that once hovered over the waters of chaos has “mightily and sweetly” ordered all things: the sun, moon and stars, the land and the sea, animals and plants, our lives and our loves. We need to see anew that this Word has ordered all things by coming into the world, taking on our human flesh and dwelling with us. In life, in death and decay, which leads to new life. “For in Him all things are held together,” even if they don’t always seem that way to us.
Veni, O Sapientia, ex ore Altissimi.