III Lent Monday

The Beginning of Wisdom 

The Lenten Readings from Proverbs 

III Lent Monday – Proverbs 8: 1 – 21 

You can listen to an audio podcast of this post at https://www.spreaker.com/episode/monday-of-the-third-week-of-great-lent–59246724

My son: 1 Thou shalt proclaim wisdom, that understanding may be obedient to thee. 2 For she is on lofty eminences, and stands in the midst of the ways. 3 For she sits by the gates of princes, and sings in the entrances, saying, 4 You, O men, I exhort; and utter my voice to the sons of men. 5 O ye simple, understand subtlety, and ye that are untaught, imbibe knowledge. 6 Hearken to me; for I will speak solemn truths; and will produce right sayings from my lips. 7 For my throat shall meditate truth; and false lips are an abomination before me. 8 All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing in them wrong or perverse. 9 They are all evident to those that understand, and right to those that find knowledge. 10 Receive instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than tried gold. 11 For wisdom is better than precious stones; and no valuable substance is of equal worth with it.  12 I wisdom have dwelt with counsel and knowledge, and I have called upon understanding. 13 The fear of the Lord hates unrighteousness, and insolence, and pride, and the ways of wicked men; and I hate the perverse ways of bad men. 14 Counsel and safety are mine; prudence is mine, and strength is mine. 15 By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. 16 By me nobles become great, and monarchs by me rule over the earth. 17 I love those that love me; and they that seek me shall find me.  18 Wealth and glory belong to me; yea, abundant possessions and righteousness. 19 It is better to have my fruit than to have gold and precious stones; and my produce is better than choice silver. 20 I walk in ways of righteousness, and am conversant with the paths of judgement; 21 that I may divide substance to them that love me, and may fill their treasures with good things. If I declare to you the things that daily happen, I will remember also to recount the things of old. 

St. Bede the Venerable, in commenting on verse 15, “By me kings reign, and princes decree justice,” writes as follows: 

“Those whom it calls ‘kings’ are the apostles and other saints, like the lawmakers and authors of both Testaments and the subsequent writers of the Church.  They have learned first how to rule themselves, and then the Church that was put under their care.  Those whom it calls ‘princes’ are governors and other powerful leaders of the faithful.   But none of these would have anything were it not through wisdom, for He says, ‘without Me, you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).” – Commentary on Proverbs. 

Here is a twofold lesson for all who have authority over others, a lesson we have all heard before and constantly forget:  “They have first learned how to rule themselves…”   and “…none of these would have anything were it not through wisdom…” and wisdom, of course, is Jesus Christ, whom St. Paul calls the Wisdom and Power of God (I Corinthians 1: 24).  (St. Bede expresses the latter theological truth neatly here, by making “wisdom” the antecedent for the pronoun He -meaning Jesus – in the last sentence of the quotation above).  

Whether as a husband dealing with a disobedient wife or a parent with a recalcitrant child or a priest with an erring parishioner, or a teacher with an obtuse student, or a supervisor with a troublesome employee – nearly all of us have had occasion to despair of being able effectively to rule someone over whom we have been given authority.  The first impulse of one’s fallen nature is, of course, to blame one’s subordinate and curse his dullness and self-will.   He may in fact be dull and self-willed, but that recognition on our part doesn’t get us anywhere.   And the further bad news is that, most of the time, we cannot be relieved of dealing with this person any time soon, or even unto the grave.  We have to keep trying, and in such a way that we do not compound the subordinate’s sin of disobedience with our own sins of anger, condemnation, impatience, and self-righteousness.  As usual, however, the Scriptures and the Holy Fathers give us sound advice in dealing with what often is, humanly speaking, an intractable situation:   We have to rule ourselves,  and we have to beg for wisdom from Wisdom Himself, Our Lord Jesus Christ.  

So there is a kind of spiritual jujitsu here:  When faced with stubborn disobedience or uncomprehending non-cooperation of a seemingly impossible kind, we should first make a strategic withdrawal before returning to the attack.   Here are three steps:  

First, to prepare a good confession, asking our Guardian Angel to reveal to us any hidden passions or unconfessed sins that may be impeding our spiritual power to exercise authority in a godly fashion.  We then go to confession with our father confessor, and the grace that is in the Church will cleanse us of our sins and passions. 

Second, to fall down before the icon of Christ, the Wisdom and Power of God, admit to Him that we have no wisdom of our own, tell Him in our own words, in childlike fashion, of this seemingly impossible situation, and ask Him for words of wisdom to give our erring subordinate.  

Third, when we return to the fray:  Prior to the next encounter with That Difficult Person, to say the prayer “O Heavenly King,” asking the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and then, saying the Jesus Prayer continually within ourselves, to engage the erring one with whatever words we may receive from above, submitting the outcome to the judgment of God.    

Often the immediate problem will be solved.   If it is not, and your sufferings continue, you will have acquired peace and patience to deal with them, always keeping in mind the real purpose of all successes and all failures in this life:  your eternal salvation.    

O long-suffering Lord, Thou only true wisdom, so patient with our unwisdom and stubborn self-will, enlighten us by the prayers of the apostles and saints, whom Thou hast truly made princes over all the earth (Ps. 44: 16).  

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