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Desperately seeking SOPHIA
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      A third development leading to the loss of Sophia was the theology of first-century philosopher Philo of Alexandria. As a Jew, Philo was very familiar with Sophia. He taught that the Divine Origin (Yahweh) had created Sophia first and then Logos (the Word) as a balancing companion. He envisioned these two working together in shaping creation: Sophia, the feminine or creating vessel, and Logos, the masculine or active doer.

     There are various theories as to how Sophia was eventually left out of Philo's approach. Some historians say it became difficult in his work to separate the Logos from Sophia, so gradually only the aspect of Logos was dept. Others say it was a strong patriarchal emphasis on the masculine that caused the feminine to be eliminated.

  For a time the early church referred to Sophia in terms comparable to that of the Holy Spirit, but this, too, gradually diminished and was lost. Whatever happened, one thing is clear: There are striking parallels between the attributes and the qualities of Jesus. There is much about Jesus that is like Sophia.

     In Jewish scripture, Sophia is a feminine voice, in contrast to a God of domination and force. Jesus, too, has a Sophia heart, not the heart of someone seeking power. Sophia is concealed but ready to reveal just as Jesus is "hidden wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 2:7), "the revelation of the mystery kept secret for endless ages" (Rom. 16:25). Both Sophia and Jesus are brought forth by God, and both are sent by God to be special messengers to humanity, bringing wisdom, counsel, and guidance. Both are teachers who instruct in the ways of God, and both are referred to as "light."

Sophia in Scripture
The following are the most important biblical texts referring to Sophia.
Proverbs
The Book of
Wisdom
Sirach
(Ecclesiasticus)
1:20-33
3:13-18
4:5-9
8:1-36
9:1-6
6:12-25
7:7-14
7:22-30
8:1-21
9:1-16
9:9-11
10:1-21
11:1-14

4:12-18
6:18-31
14:20-27
15:1-10
24:1-29
51:13-22

Baruch
3:29-38
4:1-4


Sophia as a spiritual treasure

I have come to know and love Sophia. The qualities attributed to her in the various wisdom passages have greatly influenced my spiritual life. I will never be the same because of her. That is why I completely understood and loved it when a participant at a workshop asked me, "Could you speak about Sophia? My spiritual director introduced me to her a few years ago and this has changed my life." That man's question gave me an opportunity to talk about the beautiful gifts for spiritual growth that Holy Wisdom offers to those who seek her.

Continued on next column

I believe it is time for Christians to recover the richness of this heritage of the divine feminine that has been lost. We need Sophia now more than ever.
Woman holding picture

     The Book of Wisdom (often attributed to King Solomon but actually authored by an unknown writer) has many beautiful passages about Sophia. In Chapter 7 she is described as being "the breath of the power of God, a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty ... a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of [God's] goodness" (Wis. 7:25-27). One could spend a year pondering this chapter with its rich presentation of Sophia as a radiant, indwelling presence shining in our midst.

       Sophia has depth and is full of mystery. While she is "readily seen by those who seek her" (Wis. 6:12, Sir. 6:27) and is as near as our next breath, she is equally full of mystery and needs to be discovered: "Happy is the person who meditates on Sophia ... who reflects in one's heart on Sophia's ways and ponders her secrets, pursuing her like a hunter, and lying in wait on her paths" (Sir. 15:20-22).

     Attentiveness and alertness are essential in finding Sophia. Both Proverbs and the Book of Wisdom present Sophia as sitting by the city gates, crying out at the busiest corners by the entrance to the city. (Wis. 6:14, Prov. 1:20-21). The Gates of biblical times were the entrance into the marketplace of heart of the city. Symbolically, the gates where we meet Sophia today are in the midst of our busy, marketplace lives. It is here that we can still discover Divine Wisdom, who is always ready to guide and direct our lives if we are aware of and open to her.

     There are other metaphors for Sophia. She is a teacher: "Hear, for I will speak noble things. Take my instructions (Prov. 8:1-11); a mother: "She brings up her own children" (Sir. 4:11-18); "the tree of our life" (Prov. 3:8, Wis. 10:17-19, Sir. 14:20-27); and true wealth: "more precious than jewels" (Prov. 3:15). She is also described as a counselor, a fine mist, light, and the law. Sophia provides healing and shelter, gives rest, and offers what is needed for spiritual transformation.

     I count on Sophia to influence my attitudes, values, and beliefs, to help me make good choices and decisions. I pray to her each day to guide me as I try to reflect her love in all I am and all I do. Whenever I am in doubt as to how to proceed in my work and relationships, I turn to Sophia for wisdom and courage. She has never failed to be there for me.

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"Desperately Seeking Sophia"     Page 1    Page 2     Page 3    Page 4    

HomeOrder | Circle of Life | Cosmic Dance | Cup | Dear Heart  | Fresh Bread | God's Enduring Presence | Goodbyes | Inviting God | Open the Door | Ordinary |
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Walk Relaxed | Articles | Poems | Interview | Reviews | Audio | Schedule | Response | About This Site