The First reading at Mass today, the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, comes from the book of Wisdom. It offers a relatively unusual, and refreshing, opportunity to hear the feminine pronoun used in proliferation in our Liturgy of the Word.
The usage may be prompted by a feminised personification of an attribute of God, rather than a woman, per se, but it is welcome all the same.
I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me.
I esteemed her more than sceptres and thrones;
compared with her, I held riches as nothing.
I reckoned no priceless stone to be her peer,
for compared with her, all gold is a pinch of sand,
and beside her silver ranks as mud.
I loved her more than health or beauty,
preferred her to the light,
since her radiance never sleeps.
In her company all good things came to me,
at her hands riches not to be numbered.
In our days when women of this generation, in the UK, have the opportunity of ‘competing’ (more or less equally) with men for places of power, the metaphor of Lady Wisdom may not work as well as it did. It may not be as culturally challenging, ‘woman’ is no longer in quite the striking opposition/tension to ‘man’ as once it was. (Though the qualifications in the first sentence of this paragraph remind of how much still waits to be realised before there is real equality of opportunity for women even in our time.)
Lady Wisdom was first set before (mostly) men as a challenge to the choices they made from all the opportunities available to them – exhorting them, if they wished to be faithful, to make healthy and loving, life-giving and life-sharing, choices.
If now those same choices must be made equally by men and women maybe that’s the price of progress. And maybe word ‘progress’ can be read without irony when, with God’s help (and under the inspiration offered by Lady Wisdom), we make wise choices.
- Pray for wisdom – for you and yours
- Pray for justice and equal opportunities for all
- Pray for the Synod on Family life and mission
Photograph of carving of a family from the Cairo Museum. The man is ‘disabled’, but (not least because of the woman) the family seems mighty fine! (c) 2007, Allen Morris