Augustine said: “The wise will shine like stars and those who can make others wise will be bright with eternal splendour.” “Feed your soul on divine readings; they will prepare for you a spiritual feast.”
Jerome said: “It is much better to speak the truth clumsily than to wax eloquently with a lie.”
Gregory said: “Wisdom is to fear God and keep far from evil.”
“The beginning of wisdom is to avoid evil: the second stage is to do good.” “Whoever wants to understand what he is hearing must hasten to translate what he has already heard into action.”
Isadore said: “Simplicity joined with ignorance is called stupidity: simplicity joined with prudence is called wisdom.”
—Defensor Gramaticus Book of Sparkling Sayings, 18
Again, I found this piece in today’s readings from Drinking From the Hidden Fountain. From a very early age, I have been attracted to the notion of wisdom, particularly as distinct (although not always separate) from intellect. Wisdom seems to call for a special kind of “knowing”, and implies patience, simplicity, kindness, and carefulness. In my experience, although intellect may be a personal quality, wisdom most often comes from community.
In the spiritual setting, that community involves listening creatively to the voices around us, including the voices of the past. Holy Scripture, when read carefully, offers us the collective wisdom of the Church. That “great cloud of witnesses”, the saints who have gone before us, they get a vote, too. Similarly, the we sometimes locate wisdom collective voice of the Church.
I particularly like the quotation from Gregory, suggesting that our notion of wisdom is always incomplete if we simply try and avoid evil. Real wisdom lies in seeking out the good. Rather than simply avoiding sin, we are called to make this world a better place: alleviating suffering, helping out the poor, visiting those who are sick or in prison, and binding up the brokenhearted. Perhaps there we will find wisdom, in the translation from a good idea to a committed heart.
God watch over thee and me,
James R. Dennis, O.P.
© 2012 James R. Dennis