O come, O wisdom from on high, and order all things far and nigh. To us the path of knowledge show, and help us in that way to go. —From the ancient antiphons of the pre-medieval church
We long, we long for substance, for truth we can trust. We reach beyond data, beyond information, beyond technical knowledge. We belong to something invisible, so we are unsatisfied with the visible. We want to touch the universe and fulfill an intimacy with it.
We call it God’s creation, although we barely intuit its profound integrity.
Periodically, in the woods, under the stars, by the ocean, we feel our connection to God, but all too infrequently. The feeling can’t last long, anyway, such are the demands of the clock, the stomach, the grind. It takes a movie like Koyaanisqatsi to describe the source of our anxious, empty feelings, by showing the repetitive drudgery of technological life, by showing what manipulating nature the way we have done after all these centuries. We are awash in the detritus of a culture of creature comforts. We are out of sync with nature, having violated its order.
We have muddied our little puddle of water, we are all tangled up in our own shoelaces.
It makes sense that we are drawn here, to this holy place, the same as others are drawn to their sanctuaries. Although, we’re not sure what we’re looking for, or what it has to offer. Probably, we feel held in a place like this, embraced by this miniature representation of the universe—being a camera that lets in pure light to the eye, the mind, the soul. A still place in which to be still.
The silence speaks to us of the complete world, of God’s completeness. In here, we don’t feel small, even though we sense the infinity beyond us and the infinity within. This sacred space consecrates us, it validates us.
All the words spoken and sung, repeated in long strings of names, of images, we drift in them—the words of this Advent Sunday are--Wisdom. Order. Knowledge. Light. Joy. Purity. Blameless. Righteous peace. Justice. Godly glory. Mercy. Harvest. It makes a kind of poetry to sit and listen here—we savor it, even if we don’t understand it. We don’t have to. Because Jesus is the ultimate poem. A living lyric of unvarnished frankness, and fearless honesty. An echo of the wordless Word.
He taught us, yes, and he embodied God’s wisdom. And what is that? He demonstrated that righteousness and mercy require each other, are two sides of the same coin. God has provided for our self-correction by marrying righteousness to mercy. That’s because judgment is not condemnation. Judgement is just clarity, about what is and what we have done. This way we can regain our balance, make good decisions, and (even) restore the health of the planet. To be in right relation to God is to harmonize with the order of the universe.
Just as he is the ultimate poem, Jesus is the ultimate wisdom. He held up God’s plumb line, then made it possible—bearable—for us to stand next to it. He taught all of that, and then he handed us a loaf of bread. He told us to take this bread as if it was himself, himself who was God’s Word. This bread, to be eaten, must be broken. We must break and die, too, we must break and die, to live, as Jesus was about to. Jesus hands us manna from heaven, bread for the journey, a journey we take with the universe. This Jesus makes us know that the arc of the moral universe bends toward Justice. The prophet Isaiah said a Wisdom is coming we will want to call Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
You may wonder what we are about to do now, today at this Communion Table. Maybe you always have wondered. You should wonder. It is a mystery connecting us to the furthest reaches of the inky sky, and into the minutest of particles of subatomic matter. It is the gesture Jesus initiated that cements this community, not as a group of church members but as a “communion of subjects” (Thomas Berry), among the collection of interrelated objects of God’s universe.