It seems there is something connoted by ‘wisdom’ in English that is appropriate to her praise in holy Scripture. For knowledge we understands as something limited in application (what good is all one’s knowledge if he does nothing with it, or knows not how to employ it, or perhaps even does not know its value); understanding as something acquired only after time, and something with a rather subjective quality (this is my understanding); and counsel as a means to an end. Yet wisdom both counsels and seeks counsel; she is often possessed by children yet may increase with learning and experience; and she leads men to higher things, yet is high herself and delights and gives peace to those who possess her. She is the queen of gifts, and all others are attained by her.
Wisdom grants the humility necessary for man’s perfection: For she is willing to learn from others, but also contemplates and grows in silence; she increases with time and reveres learning; she disdains the worthless, counts little things as little, and esteems great things as greater; she begins with self-knowledge yet is not self-concerned; she fears God yet knows and loves Him (Sirach 19:20); she seeks friendship yet is wary of men’s hearts (John 2:25); she begins with truth in simplicity and ends with love in totality.
Wisdom first of all receives—receives knowledge, understanding, counsel, peace, joy, fortitude, and all gifts given her. Yet she does so with discerning mind, keen eyes, and valiant heart, shunning illusions, destroying delusions, and smiting deceptions. She sifts diamonds to be treasured and sand to be cast away.
Moreover, wisdom is understood an an independent power which possesses a man and is possessed by him. For a man of understanding we consider to have acquired understanding and added it to himself; the same it is in large part with knowledge; and intelligence we consider a trait of birth or a honing of one’s mind. But a wise man seems to us to possess something greater than himself, yet it is one with him and has transfigured him, elevating him to a height and beauty beyond that of mortals—though he has not lost any of his true self, but indeed has found it in her. The man of great wisdom seems to radiate and breathe a power not his own by right.
Wisdom is the story-teller because she trains men for greatness of character and virtue, and guides and strengthens them on their individual journeys. She grants insight into the world as a whole and the entire story of God and man, and to each she grants inspiration and courage to fulfill their part in this story. She does not allow us to seek in pride what is beyond us, nor to settle in sloth for what is below us. When Scripture speaks of Wisdom, it speaks of the Holy Spirit, the breath of God who alone ‘comprehends the the thoughts of God.’ (1 Cor. 1:11) And the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life, works out every grace of man’s redemption through our Lady, the Virgin Mother of God; therefore ‘the Church’s Tradition has often read the most beautiful texts on wisdom in relation to Mary.’1 For She received the Wisdom of God perfectly, and through Her was conceived the God-Man, our salvation, Jesus the Christ. Mary and the Holy Spirit give us to know Jesus as God, and She who knows Him better than any creature—for She is His Mother—leads us into friendship with Him. (Wisdom 7:10-14) On the Cross, Jesus made Mary the Mother of all the living. And when Scripture says that St. John took her into his home, a better translation of the Greek ‘idia’ (whence Freud’s ‘the Id’) is that he took her into himself—into his soul, into all that belongs to him. If, therefore, we desire happiness, peace, a sense of fulfillment, a destiny fit for the deepest and often unvoiced desires of our hearts—a destiny more gracious than fate, more magnificent than ambition, more lovely than chance—then let us turn to our Lady, and through Her ‘obtain friendship with God’ our Maker.
‘Wisdom is radiant and unfading, and she is easily discerned by those who love her, and is found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her. He who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty, for he will find her sitting at his gates. To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding, and he who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care, because she goes about seeking those worthy of her, and she graciously appears to them in their paths, and meets them in every thought. The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction, and concern for instruction is love of her, and love of her is the keeping of her laws, and giving heed to her laws is assurance of immortality, and immortality brings one near to God; so the desire for wisdom leads to a kingdom. . . . She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and she orders all things well. I loved her and sought her from my youth, and I desired to take her for my bride, and I became enamored of her beauty. She glorifies her noble birth by living with God, and the Lord of all loves her. For she is an initiate in the knowledge of God, and an associate in his works. If riches are a desirable possession in life, what is richer than wisdom who effects all things? And if understanding is effective, who more than she is fashioner of what exists? And if any one loves righteousness, her labors are virtues; for she teaches self-control and prudence, justice and courage; nothing in life is more profitable for men than these. And if any one longs for wide experience, she knows the things of old, and infers the things to come; she understands turns of speech and the solutions of riddles; she has foreknowledge of signs and wonders and of the outcome of seasons and times. Therefore I determined to take her to live with me, knowing that she would give me good counsel and encouragement in cares and grief.’ ~Wisdom 6:12-20, 7:30b-8:9.
1. Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 721.