“In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1). The first line of John’s gospel traces the ancestry of Jesus not through David to Abraham, as St. Matthew does, nor to Adam, as St. Luke does, but to an origin before time and forever. Jesus is the Word with God through whom all things came into being. The association of the “Word” with “God” goes well beyond the closeness of wisdom to God in the Old Testament. Wisdom is not God. Nonetheless, wisdom, as described in the Old Testament, provides the backdrop against which later reflection about Jesus developed, which is why much of what is said about wisdom may be said of Jesus.
Jesus is “radiant and unfading” (Wis. 6:12). Jesus “hastens to make [himself] known” and “goes about seeking those worthy of [himself]” (Wis. 6:13,16). Jesus is “at the gate” and “appears to them in their path and meets them in every thought” (Wis. 6:16). Jesus says, “Hear my teaching, O my people; incline your ear to the words of my mouth. What wisdom is, Jesus is, and yet Jesus is more. Jesus is order, beauty, instruction, parables, ancient mysteries — all from God and with God, and begotten from the heart of the Father.
Like wisdom, Jesus calls for and inspires loving devotion. Jesus looks for those who love him, seek him, desire him (Wis. 6:13). Perhaps St. Augustine was thinking of wisdom when he described praise prompted by God, “This human being, a small portion of your creation, wants to praise you. You excite him so that he rejoices to praise you” (Confessions). As the Word, Jesus is order, beauty, providence, and intelligence. The Word calls forth our love and devotion and study.
In Jesus Christ, the Word became flesh, and “yet the world did not know him” (John 1:10). He came to his own people, that is, all people, and “his own people did not accept him” (John 1:11). He was not known or accepted because sin had come into the world. The Word could only be known when sin was stripped away and defeated. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job. 1:21). Unless we are stripped, unless sin is torn away, we will not rise from the grave or be caught up in heaven at God’s command, at the archangel’s call and the blast of the trumpet (I Thess. 4:16).
Jesus tells the story of ten bridesmaids. Five were foolish and five wise. The wise virgins took oil for their lamps as they waited for the bridegroom. When the bridegroom finally appeared after some delay, they had oil to spare and were ready to meet him. Keep awake, Jesus says. Be prepared. Waiting is not only the wisdom of carrying extra oil but the process of purgation. Patience is the pain of being stripped and made new.
Making us a new humanity, Jesus “destroys the works of the devil” (The collect). Jesus makes us new by the blood of his cross, calling us to die with him so that we may rise with him. Consider for a moment stories of death in the Bible: the great flood, the destruction of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, the occupation of the promised land and warfare under the Judges. Joshua says, “the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land” (Josh. 24:18). This must be spiritually discerned as the stripping of sin that infects and clings to humanity.
Look It Up: The collect
Think About It: “As he is pure.”