An Allegorical Interpretation of Wisdom 7 and the Fittingness of the Title “Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom”

Introduction

“For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness” (Wisdom 7:26). Many times in the seven Old Testament Wisdom books (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Wisdom [of Solomon], and Sirach), Wisdom is personified as a woman. One theologian says of Lady Wisdom that, “She was a real biblical person with more material on her in the Old Testament (with Apocrypha) than anyone in the scriptures, except God, Job, Moses and David.” {footnote}Karen Vaughn, “Sophia in the Biblical Tradition: A Book Review of Sophia by Susan Cady, Marian Ronan, & Hal Taussig,” n.p. [cited 10 April 2008]. Online: http://www.pinn.net/~sunshine/book-sum/sophia.html. {/footnote} If this is the case, then it most certainly is a topic worthy of discussion and further development.

The Scriptures have layers of meaning, and most of the aforementioned cases can be explained by describing the maternal or feminine characteristics of God the Father, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit. There are ways in which the Trinity is like a “mother” to us: gentle, loving, and caring. The Holy Spirit is also called the Paraclete or “Comforter,” a role commonly associated with mothers. Jesus in the Gospels even compares himself to a mother hen gathering her brood (Luke 13:34). However, there are countless references throughout Catholic Tradition to the texts of the Wisdom Books referring not only to the Trinity, but to Mary, the Virgin Mother of God. Such references are made from the early Church Fathers to Pope Benedict XVI. While understanding the wisdom books in the midst of the Church’s rich theological Tradition, this work will focus on Wisdom 7 as a prototype of all wisdom literature. While this chapter is overtly directed toward the Holy Spirit and to Jesus, there are many traces of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Spouse of the Holy Spirit and Mother of Jesus within it as well. It will be ascertained whether these references are simply another Catholic “invention” used to inordinately exalt Mary. Is using the Old Testament to support mariological doctrines forced exegesis upon texts which have nothing to do with her? Is the vision of Catholics clouded by reading Old Testament texts through a Marian lens, searching for some small reference to advocate their idolatry of an otherwise humble and holy Jewish woman? And, ultimately, is Mary worthy of the title Sedes Sapientiae or “Seat of Wisdom”? {footnote}Kenneth Baker, S.J., Inside the Bible: an Introduction to Each Book of the Bible (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998), 139.{/footnote}It is fitting to address these questions in the same essay, as their development has been roughly concurrent and interdependent throughout Church history. In order to fruitfully analyze these issues, we must understand the Wisdom books in the light of both the Holy Scriptures as a whole and the Church’s living Tradition.

Part I: Background

Chapter 1: Methodology

Before continuing, the methodology of this essay must be expounded. The method being used is treated exhaustively by Pope Benedict XVI in his pre-papal commentary The Sign of the Woman, which explains John Paul II’s approach in Redemptoris Mater. {footnote}Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, and Hans Urs Von Balthasar, Mary: The Church at the Source (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005). {/footnote} The “content and unity” of all of Scripture, understood within Church Tradition, must be at the forefront of the message of this essay. {footnote}Dei Verbum, Vatican Council II, 1962-1965, no. 12. {/footnote}No verse in all of scripture can be adequately understood in all its breadth, height, and richness without reading it in the context of the whole of Divine Revelation. Furthermore, the study of Scripture is not so superficial as to remain at the level of source criticism, historical details, and the circumstances of authorship. The Bible is not simply a record book of ancient events frozen in the past, but rather a conveyance of eternal Truth from the mouth of God Himself with the power to convict hearts and change lives (see Heb. 4:12). {footnote}Ratzinger and Von Balthasar, Mary: The Church at the Source, 40. {/footnote}Therefore, on the reader’s part, this requires a full and contemplative immersion in all the biblical texts related to a given passage. Despite many seeming tensions or contradictions, one must realize the inherent unity of the entire deposit of faith, including Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. On a practical level, this means that some biblical texts which do not seem to be explicitly related can shed light on and help to interpret each other. This stems from the fact that the Bible is ultimately one story, written by God Himself, as the cosmic and eternal drama of His love for us: a plan which begins at Creation, goes through the turbulent history of the Chosen People repeatedly turning away from and returning to Him, and finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Like any good Author, God leaves traces of the ending of His story throughout its entirety by utilizing foreshadowing, typology, and other literary devices. With this being said, it naturally follows that the very same passage of Scripture can have multiple layers of meaning that are able to healthily co-exist. For instance, many passages and themes of Wisdom 7 can simultaneously refer to Solomon, Jesus Christ, Wisdom, the Holy Spirit, and Mary. Some are certainly more fitting for one or the other, and some can only be explained by one to the exclusion of the others. But, with the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit and written through the hands and minds of sacred writers, more than one meaning is not at all problematic. {footnote}Dei Verbum, no. 11. {/footnote}In fact, a simple identification of Wisdom as just one person or concept could present even more difficulties. To develop this idea, we must look at some concrete examples of the unity of the Old and New Testaments.

Chapter 2: The Old & New Testaments

What’s the Connection?

As previously explained, to grasp the great scope of this study, we must begin with a profound understanding of the deep inter-connectedness and integrity of the whole of scripture. More specifically, as a backdrop to our study, we must explore how the Old and New Testaments of the Bible are connected so as to discern if seeing traces of Mary in the Old Testament is suitable for authentic biblical scholarship. According to St. Augustine, “In the Old Testament, the New lies hid; in the New, the Old is manifested.” {footnote}Louis Bouyer, The Seat of Wisdom: an Essay on the Place of the Virgin Mary in Christian Theology (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1965), 30. {/footnote}Our current pontiff agrees, saying: “The whole New Testament is rooted in the Old and wants simply to be a rereading of the Old Testament in light of what occurred with and through Jesus of Nazareth.” Yet, there is no greater evidence for the interplay between the Old and New Testaments than the witness of the New Testament itself, especially in the words of our Risen Savior. “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, til heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:17-18). Christ Himself says that He has come to fulfill all that was written in the Old Testament. In addition, there are countless places in the New Testament in which Old Testament verses are explicitly described as being fulfilled in Christ. While it is unnecessary and impossible to name them all, there are few more striking examples than Luke 24:44-47:

Then he said to them, “These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the [Old Testament] scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

Christ is explicitly stating that the Pentateuch, the prophets, and the psalms all refer to his coming: specifically to His suffering, death, and even to His Resurrection.

In the Fullness of Time

All of salvation history, then, leads up to and flows from the Cross of Christ. Ephesians 1:9-10 captures this idea of Christ as the center of all history, saying that God made His will known to us through Jesus Christ, “as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him” (see also Col. 1:19). Furthermore, if all history finds its focal point in Jesus Christ, then all of history must also converge upon another historical person, the person most intimately involved with the Incarnation: His Mother Mary. This is reflected in Galatians 4:4-5: “In the fullness of time, God sent forth his son, born of a woman…to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” The Greek word for this “fullness” found in both of the above scripture passages is “pleroma” (πλήρωμα) from the root word “pleres” (πλήρης) which means “lacking nothing, perfect” and implies a completeness of fulfillment in every way. {footnote}”Dictionary and Word Search for Pleroma (Strong’s 4138),” Blue Letter Bible (1998): n.p. [cited 4 April 2008]. Online: http://cf.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4138&t=kjv. {/footnote} This word is also used in Scripture for the accomplishment of God’s will in the form of promises and prophecies. Therefore, this statement means much more than appears at face value: that from the beginning of time, God planned the existence of a woman in order to bring Jesus into the world at the perfect moment in the midst of all of time and history. Pope Pius XII confirms this line of thinking in his 1950 apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus:

The august Mother of God was mysteriously united from all eternity with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination, immaculate in her conception, a virgin inviolate in her divine motherhood, the wholehearted companion of the divine Redeemer who won a complete victory over sin and its consequences.

Typology

Therefore, if God had Mary in mind from the beginning of his salvific plan, it would make sense that her pivotal role would be foreshadowed and prepared for in the Old Testament. This foreshadowing is commonly called typology. “A type is a real person, place, thing, or event in the Old Testament that foreshadows something greater in the New Testament [called an ‘anti-type’]…From ‘type’ we get the word ‘typology.'” {footnote}Scott Hahn, Hail Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God (New York: Doubleday, 2001), 23. {/footnote}It is also important to realize that typology makes use of analogy: “similarity in dissimilarity, unity in diversity.” {footnote}Ratzinger, Daughter Zion, 63. {/footnote}Therefore, there are also many things which types and anti-types do not have in common, as they are each distinct, individual realities in themselves. Other prominent Marian types besides that of Lady Wisdom include Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Judith, Esther, Hannah, Ruth, the Queen Mother Bathsheba, the mother of Maccabees, the Ark of the Covenant & the Burning Bush (both seen as having within them the presence of God just as Mary carried Jesus within her womb), the Ark of Noah, and Daughter Zion, among others. {footnote}Dr. Mark Miravalle, STD, Introduction to Mary: The Heart of Marian Doctrine and Devotion (Goleta, CA: Queenship Publishing, 1996), 24-29. {/footnote} A word from Benedict XVI will provide a concise summary of the ideas presented in this section:

If one begins by reading backwards or, more precisely, from the end to the beginning, it becomes obvious that the image of Mary in the New Testament is woven entirely of Old Testament threads…Wherever the unity of the Old & New Testaments disintegrates, the place of healthy Mariology is lost. {footnote}Ratzinger, Daughter Zion, 12, 32. {/footnote}

Benedict also tells us explicitly that the concept of Lady Sophia “does not lend itself to interpretation within the context of the Old Testament alone.” {footnote}Ratzinger, Daughter Zion, 25. {/footnote}


 

Part II: The Text

Chapter 3:Rhetoric

Literary Devices

The Book of Wisdom is obviously in the genre of wisdom literature common to the Ancient near East, which imparts knowledge about God and virtue through pithy sayings. The figurative language employed in Wisdom 7 includes metaphor and hyperbole. One metaphor is in verses 25 to 26: “She is a breath, …a spotless mirror.” Whether these verses refer to wisdom itself, to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit, or to Mary, none of these options are literally a physical breath or a mirror. Rather, these words are used for comparative purposes because there are ways in which a person could be like an emanating breath or a reflective mirror of God’s glory. Hyperbole, or exaggeration for the sake of emphasis, is scattered all throughout this chapter. It is employed in all the praises of wisdom to display the exalted status of this beloved attribute (verses 8-14; verses 27-29). Hyperbole is also used when Solomon lists all the areas in which he has gained wisdom and understanding (verses 17-22). This list seems to simply indicate that Solomon knows all things and is extremely wise. The hyperbolic effect of many of these texts, however, is lessened when they are applied to the Trinity because no hyperbole can match the infinitely glorious attributes of God Himself. In this case, the “hyperbole” would not be an exaggeration but may even be an understatement of the beauty of God. Furthermore, the frequent use of words related to wealth and treasure serve to emphasize the preciousness of wisdom. One allusion is mentioned in verse one (“a descendant of the first-formed child of the earth”), referring to Adam, the first man created by God in the Book of Genesis. This is significant because Christ is the New Adam who conquers the sin and death which Adam and Eve brought upon the world through their disobedience (1 Cor. 15:22-23, 45-47; Rom. 5:14). Also, in verse 4, when Solomon speaks of being wrapped in “swaddling cloths” as a baby, this brings to mind the swaddling cloths as a sign of how the shepherds are to identify the baby Jesus in Luke 2:12. In verse 30, which says, “…but against wisdom evil does not prevail,” there could be both an allusion and a foreshadowing taking place. It is an allusion inasmuch as it could refer back to Genesis 3:15 which is the first prophecy of the “seed of Eve” crushing the head of Satan, but it could also be foreshadowing the victory of Christ over evil on the Cross. This chapter, beginning with Adam and ending with Eve, forms an inclusio. The prominent symbolism used in this chapter is that of the sun, constellations, and light in verse 29, which displays the awesome creative power and ruling majesty of the cosmic God who formed the universe. This would not imply that Mary personified as Lady Wisdom is a goddess, but rather that her honor and authority come as a gift from the Lord of the Universe. There is also parallelism in almost every couplet in the entire chapter, in which the second line echoes and expands on the first. However, the primary literary devices used in Wisdom 7 are anthropomorphism and personification. Anthropomorphism would be present if the text is read with the human characteristics (such as physical or feminine attributes) being attributed to the God or more specifically to the Holy Spirit, whereas personification would be present inasmuch as one reads the text as simply the virtue of wisdom being portrayed as a woman (Wisdom 7:8-13, 22, 24-27,29).

Structure of Wisdom 7

The basic structure of Wisdom chapter 7 is as follows:{footnote} Baker, S.J., Inside the Bible, 135. {/footnote}

I. Solomon’s prayer brought him wisdom (7:1-7:21)

A. Solomon’s meditation on his own mortality (7:1-6)
B. Solomon’s prayer for understanding (7:7-14)
C. God grants Solomon’s request (7:15-21)

II. The nature of wisdom (7:22-7:30)

A. The characteristics of wisdom (7:22-23)
B. Wisdom as “ruah” (7:24-25)
C. Wisdom as a “spotless mirror” (7:26)
D. Praise of wisdom (7:27-30)

Typology in Wisdom 7

The Son of David & the Queen Mother as Advocate

Since the typology and detail is so extensive in these verses, it will be beneficial to do an analysis of some of the key verses and sections of the chapter. The first two-thirds of the text of Wisdom 7 (7:1-7:22) include Solomon seeking and then being granted wisdom and understanding. This pleading for the “spirit of wisdom” (verse 7) has an association to the Law as noted in the similar language of Sirach 39:1-11 (especially verse 6). Solomon, the prototypical wise man, is a type of Christ. Jesus Himself even makes this assertion in Matthew 12:42 when He says, “The queen of the South…came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.” An important Solomonic term for this treatise is that of the Queen Mother or “Gebirah” (“Great Lady”) cited in 1 Kings 2:19 in reference to Bathsheba. This is the title given by Davidic kings to their mothers. Since Jesus is the ultimate “Son of David” and the everlasting Davidic King (Luke 1:32), a new Queen Mother also arises in the person of Mary. {footnote}Miravalle, Introduction to Mary, 29-30. {/footnote} This fact makes Solomon’s references to his mother as well as all the feminine references in wisdom literature all the more telling. With this in mind, Wisdom 7:1 (“in the womb of a mother I was molded into flesh.”) can also point to Mary who St. Augustine calls the “Mold of God” since Christ, who is God, was formed within her. {footnote}St. Louis de Montfort. True Devotion to Mary (Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books &, Inc., 1985), 142. {/footnote} Mary as the New Queen Mother also points to her role as “Advocate,” just as Adonijah asks Bathsheba to intercede for him to King Solomon because “he will not refuse you” in 1 Kings 2:13-20. It should be clarified that Mary’s role as Advocate is secondary to and dependent on the advocacy of Jesus Christ. For without Christ’s winning our Redemption on the Cross and becoming our Advocate before the Father (1 John 2:1-2), there can be no secondary advocacy by the Blessed Virgin. {footnote}Lumen Gentium, Vatican II, 62. {/footnote}These verses also imply the queenship of Mary, as the Mother of Christ the King. This becomes more evident when comparing 1 Kings 2:19 and Wisdom 9:4. In 1 Kings, Solomon has a seat (or throne) brought for his mother to sit on his right side, and Wisdom 9 says, “give me wisdom that sits by thy throne.” The actual word here is “throne-partner,” which is only used one other time in the Bible in Wisdom 6:14. {footnote}James M. Reese, The Book of Wisdom, Song of Songs (vol. 20 of The Old Testament Message; Wilmington, Deleware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1983), 80. {/footnote}

Mediatrix of all Graces

Verse 11 says, “All good things came to me along with her, and in her hands uncounted wealth. I rejoiced in them all, because wisdom leads them: but I did not know that she was their mother.” The word “uncounted” here is translated as “too great to be counted” in Wisdom 18:2. {footnote}Reese, The Book of Wisdom, 80. {/footnote} This phrase has strong allusions to Mary as Mediatrix of all Graces and also states explicitly that wisdom is the mother of this wealth. At the very least, Mary is the mother of the greatest treasure of our faith: Jesus Christ, the source of grace. Echoing this imagery, de Montfort sees Mary as “the treasurer of His treasures” and “dispenser of His graces” (see also Prov. 8:21). {footnote}De Montfort, True Devotion, 17. {/footnote} Mary as Mediatrix of all Graces is further emphasized in verses 13 to 14 when it states, “I do not hide her wealth, for it is an unfailing treasure for men; those who get it obtain friendship with God.” What kind of wealth or treasure being given out by Lady Wisdom can draw one into union with the Lord? The answer is quite plainly grace, or, better, Jesus Christ who is the source of that grace. Verse 15 says that “[God] is even the guide of Wisdom.” What is interesting about this statement is the contrast which it places between God and Wisdom, suggesting that God is superior to Wisdom. In this case, Wisdom could be a created person, or at the very least someone other than a divine person. But, how are the texts which describe the divine characteristics of wisdom to be interpreted? For, wisdom is also described as the “fashioner of all things” (verse 22), as “all-powerful, overseeing all,” as one who “penetrates all spirits” (verse 23), and as one who “can do all things” and “renew all things” (verse 27). While these verses would certainly be applied to God Himself as Creator, there is a sense in which they could also apply to the Virgin Mary. All of God’s greatest works in which He demonstrates His omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence are done through her, the foremost of these works of course being that of the Incarnation. One can prove this to be true because if God entrusted His very Son to Mary, what would He not entrust to her maternal care? Since God does not change (James 2:17), we can expect Him to continue to effect all of His most sublime actions though the Blessed Mother. This leads de Montfort to comment, “All that is fitting to God by nature is fitting to Mary by grace.” Therefore, Mary could be said to be “all-powerful” by grace, as paradoxical as it may sound. {footnote} De Montfort, True Devotion,, 46. {/footnote} It should be emphasized again that although Mary is God’s most perfectly docile instrument through which He carries out His most spectacular acts, He does not have a strict need for her. Her position is only in consequence of God’s will and design. Stating Mary’s role succinctly, one could say that God chose to “need” her. {footnote}De Montfort, True Devotion, 11. {/footnote}For no matter how favored and exalted a position our Lord gives her, compared to God the Creator, Mary remains a mere creature.

The Ten Virtues of Mary

Beyond these observances, the ten virtues of Mary listed in True Devotion (humility, faith, obedience, prayer, mortification, purity, charity, patience, sweetness, and wisdom) display a striking parallel to the characteristics of wisdom in verses 22 to 23 (intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, mobile, clear, unpolluted, distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen, irresistible, beneficent, humane, steadfast, sure, free from anxiety, [also all-powerful, overseeing, all, and penetrating all spirits which were already mentioned]) {footnote}De Montfort, True Devotion, 66. {/footnote}Humility is like “subtle” and “free from anxiety;” faith, prayer, mortification, and patience are linked with “holy;” obedience is similar to “steadfast” and “sure;” purity reflects “clear, unpolluted, [and] invulnerable;” charity could be rephrased as “loving the good,” “beneficent,” or “humane;” “sweetness” matches up with “irresistible,” and “wisdom” corresponds with “intelligent” and “keen.”

Mary & the Holy Spirit

Verses 24-25 say, “For wisdom is more mobile than any motion…For she is a breath of the power of God.” The word “breath” in this passage is the Hebrew word “ruah” (חור) which literally means “wind” or “spirit,” but is seen by many as the Holy Spirit (the Third Person of the Trinity) because the same word appears in Genesis 1:2 as “the Spirit of God” moving over the face of the waters just before Creation (see also Wis. 9:17). {footnote} “Dictionary and Word Search for ruwach (Strong’s 07307),” Blue Letter Bible (2008): n.p. [cited 15 April 2008]. Online: http://cf.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H07307&t =kjv. {/footnote}The mobility reference of this passage can refer to the omnipresence and constant action of God in the world by virtue of His infinite simplicity, omniscience, and omnipotence. For God must be present in all things at all times to hold creation in existence (Acts 17:28). {footnote}Dr. John Bergsma. “Class Notes from Principles of Biblical Studies I,” Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, Spring 2006. {/footnote} However, an interesting detail about the word “ruah” is that it is a feminine noun. While this can and does still refer to the Holy Spirit, one must remember that the Holy Spirit does not have a certain gender or even a physical body, regardless of the anthropomorphic language of the Bible in various places. What is interesting about this passage is that it expresses wisdom as a spirit, whereas verse 22 says that “in her there is a spirit.” This shows that it is possible, in certain respects, for these passages to be interpreted both as the Holy Spirit and as Mary who has the Holy Spirit within her. {footnote}Murphy, The Tree of Life, 143. {/footnote}The distinctions are blurry because of the profound intimacy between the Blessed Mother and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, even when these verses are read as referring to the Holy Spirit, they also have an implicit connection to Mary, as she is the Holy Spirit’s “dear and inseparable spouse.” {footnote}De Montfort, True Devotion, 14, 21. {/footnote} St. Maximilian Kolbe even goes so far as to say that the Holy Spirit is “quasi-incarnate” {footnote}Quasi here means “in some sense.” {/footnote}in Mary, that is to say that if the Holy Spirit were incarnate (which He is not), the closest similarity would be His union with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Kolbe is going to the farthest possible extreme within the limits of the human language and then pulling back simply to exhort us to ponder the great mystery of the Holy Spirit’s intimate relationship with Mary. {footnote}Fr. H.M. Manteau-Bonamy, O.P., Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit : The Marian Teachings of Maximilian Kolbe (Libertyville, IL: Marytown Press, 2001), 61-62. {/footnote}The Holy Spirit, by virtue of the Immaculate Conception is with Mary from the very moment of her conception and certainly remains with her now in heaven. It was also the Holy Spirit who overshadowed Mary to conceive Jesus, making Mary the only person in whom the Spirit is so tangibly fruitful. In short, Mary is closer to the Holy Spirit than any other human person to the point that where the Holy Spirit is, there also is Mary, and vice versa. This truth is clearly made manifest in the ancient iconography of Mary’s presence in the Upper Room at Pentecost (Acts 1:14), which always displays the Blessed Mother as the central point from which the fire of the Holy Spirit is radiating.


 

The Immaculate Conception

Verse 25 (“nothing defiled gains entrance into her”) affirms the doctrine of Mary’s having been undefiled by sin, as cited by St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa. {footnote}St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Question 27, Article 2, Reply OBJ. 2. {/footnote} This reinforces the previous point because it alludes to Mary’s Immaculate Conception which was effected by the Holy Spirit with whom she is so close. Other phrases in the chapter which also relate to the Immaculate Conception are “unpolluted,” “pure,” and “spotless mirror.” Wisdom 1:4, says Aquinas in the Summa, also communicates this idea: “…wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul, nor dwell in a body enslaved to sin.” {footnote}Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Question 27, Article 4, OBJ. 3. {/footnote}The Immaculate Conception, however, is perhaps most persuasively proven through the Ark of the Covenant as a type of Mary. For the Ark held within it the very presence of God, and could not be touched by sinful persons (Num. 4:20; 2 Sam. 6:6-7). So, too, Mary held within her the Incarnate Son of God, and was preserved from every stain of sin (Rev. 11:19-12:17). There are many more similarities between the Ark of the Covenant and Mary which can not be expounded in this current treatise.

The Assumption

If Mary was unsullied by sin, she also, therefore, was uncontaminated by sickness and infirmity, and ultimately untainted even by bodily corruption. Since the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23), these allusions must also point to the Assumption of Mary, as her body was incorruptible due to her sinlessness. Bouyer also notes this connection between the Assumption and Jewish wisdom theology.

At the final stage of a long process of elaboration in the religious thought of Israel, Wisdom becomes, as it were, raised up above the earth and carried up into God. But, even in God, it continues to be related to the creation, and, in particular, to the history of the people of God…So it is that, in Wisdom, it is always the creature we have to envisage, but the creature in God, the creature as God will realize it at the end of time, and as contained in his thought from all eternity. {footnote}Bouyer, The Seat of Wisdom, 194. {/footnote}

Furthermore, Wisdom 7 is in the section of the book concerning how wisdom leads to everlasting life (chapters 6 to 9). {footnote}Baker, S.J., Inside the Bible, 132. {/footnote} If Mary is Lady Wisdom, leading us to eternity with the Lord, then surely she must know the way herself. This is shown vividly in Wisdom 6:18-19 which reminds us that, “To observe her laws is the basis for incorruptibility; and incorruptibility makes one close to God.” {footnote}NAB{/footnote}

The Perpetual Virginity

Wisdom being described as “invulnerable” (verse 22) is extremely similar to the title of Mary in the Litany of Loreto “Mother Inviolate,” which can be a reference to her virginal integrity, which was preserved throughout both the conception and birth of Jesus. Another text which strongly correlates with and supports this idea is Wisdom 3:13b: “For blessed is the barren woman who is undefiled, who has not entered into a sinful union; she will have fruit when God examines souls” (see also Sir. 24:17, Prov. 8:19). This powerful verse not only resonates with traces of the Immaculate Conception, but also speaks of Mary’s unique privilege of being a physically fruitful virgin, having the joys of both virginity and motherhood.

Verse 26 seems to point forward to Christ in Hebrews 1:3. However the idea that “she” is the “reflection, mirror, and image” of God is similar to an oft-repeated concept in Mariology: “Just as the moon is beautiful…by reflecting the sun’s light, so is Mary beautiful and beneficial to us by reflecting the Light and Glory of Christ.” {footnote}David Morrison, “What about the Virgin Mary?: A Brief Catechism about Mary,” n.p. [cited 4 April 2008]. Online: http://www.ancient-future.net/marynew.html. {/footnote}

Friends of God

Verses 27 to 28 say that “…in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets; for God loves nothing so much as the man who lives with wisdom.” Besides this passage’s connection to the role of Mary as Mediatrix of all Graces, de Montfort proposes that since Mary has produced Jesus Christ, she will also form the greatest saints of all time, and that no one can be close to the Lord without an intimate relationship with Mary. {footnote}De Montfort, True Devotion, 21, 24-26. {/footnote} Indeed, “He who has not Mary for his Mother has not God for his Father.” {footnote}De Montfort, True Devotion, 18. {/footnote}He further says that the reason the Holy Spirit does not do more wonders in souls is because He does not find Mary within them. {footnote}De Montfort, True Devotion, 21. {/footnote}The greatest, holiest, and most virtuous saints will have the greatest devotion to Our Lady, and they will draw the whole world into that devotion with them. They will have many struggles and enemies, but also a great many victories. {footnote}De Montfort, True Devotion, 26-27. {/footnote}These souls, seeking only God’s glory and the salvation of souls, will be “true disciples of Jesus Christ, walking in the footsteps of His poverty, humility, contempt of the world, [and] charity.” {footnote}De Montfort, True Devotion, 34-35. {/footnote}They shall carry on their shoulders the bloody standard of the Cross, the Crucifix in their right hand and the Rosary in their left, the sacred Names of Jesus and Mary in their hearts, and the modesty and mortification of Jesus Christ in their own behavior. These are the great men who are to come. {footnote}De Montfort, True Devotion, 35. {/footnote}

The names which immediately come to mind upon hearing these descriptions are St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Padre Pio, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Servant of God John Paul II. Indeed, even the greatest cynic could not deny either the holiness or the passionate Marian devotion held by each of these modern-day saints. Their very lives serve as a shining example to all the faithful of how the Virgin Mary can indeed makes us “friends of God” by teaching us the holiness and humility of Her Son whose life she witnessed firsthand.

The Epic Battle: The Woman Clothed with the Sun

The last verses of the entire chapter of Wisdom 7 (verses 29-30) are perhaps the most poignant because they encompass all of salvation history in just a few phrases. The words in these verses concisely reflect the images in both Genesis and Revelation, in which there is a “woman” intimately connected to Christ in the Redemption of the human race. These verses state, “For she is more beautiful than the sun, and excels every constellation of the stars. Compared with the light she is superior,…but against wisdom evil does not prevail.” First, there is the symbolic imagery of the constellations & celestial bodies mentioned earlier. This imagery reflects that of both Song of Solomon 6:10 as well as Revelation 12, both of which have been interpreted as being Mary in the liturgy of the Church (see liturgical section).

Genesis 3:15 & the New Eve

As previously stated, verse 30 refers back to Genesis 3:15, which is called the “Protoevangelium” or “First Gospel,” because it is the first indication that God will save His people from the fall. In it, God says to the serpent concerning Eve that He will “…put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The word “enmity” here implies a complete and total opposition. Since we know that Eve was not in total enmity with the serpent, having given into his cunnings, and further that she did not have righteous and victorious offspring, we must therefore look to another “woman” of Scripture, to a “New Eve”: that woman’s name is Mary. Mary, unlike Eve, was in complete enmity with the “serpent” (being without sin) and did have a child who was victorious over sin, death, and Satan: Jesus Christ. This is also the only place in Scripture which speaks of the seed of a woman instead of a man. {footnote}Bergsma, PBS I, Spring 2006. {/footnote}This is extremely significant because Jesus did not have a human father, but only human mother. It should also be clarified here that in many representations, most notably the Miraculous Medal, Mary herself is seen crushing the head of the serpent. This stems from St. Jerome’s 5th Century interpretation of Genesis 3:15 which said, “She shall crush your head, and you shall bruise her heel.” Jerome uses the Latin “ipsa” which means “she,” however later modern translations designate the word as “he.” The Hebrew from which Jerome made the translation could have been validly rendered as “he” or “she,” but Jerome (who was a biblical and linguistic scholar) was convinced that the pronoun referred back to the antecedent “woman.” Other Old Testament Marian types that support this idea of Our Lady crushing the head of Satan are found with Jael in Judges 5:26 and with Judith in Judith 13:8 (see also Song. 6:10). In either case, however, the truth remains the same that Mary was intimately involved in the downfall of Satan through her connection to Jesus Christ. {footnote}Miravalle, Introduction to Mary, 24-25. {/footnote}

This idea of Mary as the “Second Eve” is seen as early as the 2nd and 3rd Centuries by St. Justin Martyr, St. Irenaeus, and Tertullian, and is also echoed throughout Church Tradition. {footnote}Paul F. Palmer, S.J., Mary in the Documents of the Church (Westminster, Maryland: The Newman Press, 1952), 12-14. {/footnote} Just as Adam and Eve fell together, the New Adam chooses the New Eve to play an irreplaceable though subservient role in salvation. Irenaeus points out a striking correlation between the temptation of Eve and the Annunciation of the angel Gabriel to Mary. {footnote}St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5, 19, 1 (From Palmer, S.J., 13-14). {/footnote} Bouyer remarks that in both instances, the man performs the essential act, but the woman prepares the way. The fallen angel Lucifer appears to Eve to incite prideful doubt and disobedience, whereas the loyal angel Gabriel appears to Mary to encourage her humble and faithful obedience. Furthermore, childbearing, the pain of which was a curse in Genesis 3:16, will later become the salvation of women (1 Tim. 2:15). Mary’s childbearing, however, became the salvation not only for herself but for all mankind as her child was the Incarnate Son of God who took our place on the Cross. {footnote}Bouyer, The Seat of Wisdom, 36. {/footnote}St. Jerome puts it very succinctly: “death through Eve, life through Mary.” {footnote}St. Jerome, Epist. 22, No. 21: PL 22, 408 (From Miravalle, 44). {/footnote} Just as Eve was “the mother of all living,” (Gen. 3:20), Mary is the Mother of all who live in Christ (Rev. 12:17). Adam and Eve chose to spiritually die rather than to control their base desires (Gen. 2:17), whereas Christ and Mary chose to die to their flesh (literally in the case of Christ) in order to live spiritually and to accomplish God’s will. While these numerous similarities are persuasive, there still remains one of the most convincing parallels between the Fall in Eden and the Crucifixion of Christ. Eve stood at the base of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and ate of its forbidden fruit, causing her spiritual death. Mary, the New Eve, stands at the foot of the Tree of Life on which our Savior died for us. On that Tree, Christ Himself hung as the New Fruit of grace and salvation. That Fruit, the Fruit of Jesus’ very Body and Blood, we are able to consume in the Eucharist at every single Mass, which spurs us on to the victory of eternal life (see John 6).


 

Revelation 12

The connection between Mary and Eve is further strengthened by the Gospel references to Mary as “woman” (Jn. 2:4, Jn. 19:26). The most important New Testament reference to Mary as “woman” for our purposes is in Revelation 12:1-3, 5, and 9:

And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child…And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon…she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule the nations with a rode of iron…And the great red dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan.

This imagery is much like Wisdom 7:29. Both this verse and Revelation 12:1 include the sun and stars, and while the moon is not mentioned in Wisdom, there is a light to which Lady Wisdom is “found to be superior” or above, just as Mary had the moon at her feet. Wisdom 7 describes Lady Wisdom as excelling all the heavenly bodies. This shows that Mary is the Queen of Heaven and Earth and the most exalted of all creatures, even above the vast expanse of the cosmos (remember that Christ is not a creature, but the divine Creator). Also, in both Genesis and Revelation there is opposition between the “woman” and the serpent or dragon (Rev. 12:3). It is interesting that both words translate into the Hebrew word “nahash,” which encompasses all crawling creatures from earthworms to dragons. {footnote}Bergsma, PBS I, Spring 2006. {/footnote}

Co-Redemptrix

This opposition between Mary and the “nahash” is such that, in a strictly qualified sense, Satan fears Mary more than he fears God. The devil objectively realizes the omnipotence of God, so being defeated by God should not come as a great surprise to him. But, in all his pride, Satan is astonished and bewildered in being crushed by the dainty foot of a humble handmaid of the Lord. Considering his own angelic nature, complete with a strength and intellect which objectively surpasses that of human beings, Satan is confounded by the grace of God enabling the humble Virgin Mary to tower over him and to thwart his conniving scheme to lure humanity to reject God as he did. De Montfort even says that the demons “…fear one of [Mary’s] sighs for a soul more than the prayers of all the saints, and one of her threats against them more than all other torments.” {footnote}De Montfort, True Devotion, 31. {/footnote} Our Lady, in bringing forth our Redeemer who crushes the head of Satan (Gen. 3:15) as well as in her following Christ all the way to the Cross (Jn. 19:25-27), manifests her role as Co-Redemptrix. {footnote}Benedict XV, Pius XI, Pius XII, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, Lumen Gentium 58. {/footnote} The Blessed Mother played an infinitely smaller though still significant and necessary role (by the will of God, not in an absolute sense) in our Redemption by suffering with and under Her Son as she witnessed His brutal execution. This reflects the prophecy of Simeon in Luke 2:35 in which he says to Mary, “…a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (see also Col. 1:24 and 1 Cor. 3:9).

Based on this abundant evidence, it is undeniable that the last two verses of Wisdom 7 encapsulate the epic battles between the Blessed Virgin Mary and Satan which form the bookends of Divine Revelation and all of Salvation History. This also shows emphatically that Mary is the “seal between the Old Testament and the New Testament,” which is further highlighted by the fact that Wisdom was the last book of the Old Testament canon to be written. {footnote} Sean O’Connor, Mary: The Valiant Woman, (Senior thesis, Franciscan University of Steubenville, 2006), 18-19. {/footnote}Perhaps even more astounding is that in this analysis of Wisdom 7, we have seen traces of every single major Marian doctrine and dogma: Mother of God, Perpetual Virginity, Immaculate Conception, Assumption, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix, and Advocate.

Part III: The Deposit of Faith

Chapter 4:Canon of Scripture

Wisdom 7’s Background and Immediate Context

In its literal context, Wisdom 7 is King Solomon’s reflection on mortality and the search for wisdom, the importance of wisdom, wisdom’s qualities, and the enormous blessing wisdom will be for the one who possesses her. In the canon, Wisdom lies in between the books of the Song of Solomon and Sirach (two other books also in the genre of wisdom literature), and contains a total of nineteen chapters. It is made up of three sections: a reflection on immortality (chapters 1-5), a description of true wisdom & how it leads to eternal life (chapters 6-9), and finally, examples of faithfulness to the Law from Adam to Moses (chapters 10-19) and an exhortation against idolatry (chapters 13-14). {footnote}Baker, S.J., Inside the Bible, 132. {/footnote}Wisdom 7, therefore, is part of the second section on wisdom and immortality. What is unique about Wisdom 7 is that it is the only time that Wisdom is explicitly prayed for within the wisdom literature. {footnote}Ronald E. Murphy, The Tree of Life: An Exploration of Biblical Wisdom Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), 142. {/footnote} There are four sections to the Old Testament: Law, History, Wisdom, and Prophecy. The book of Wisdom is part of the overarching Wisdom section. {footnote}Dr. Scott Hahn, Understanding the Scriptures: A Complete Course on Bible Study (Woodridge, IL: Midwest Theological Forum, 2004), 26-33. {/footnote} It is interesting that this section lies in between the Historical and the Prophecy books, as if to say: “This is what God has done in the past, and through the Wisdom of God, you will see what God’s plan is for the future: bringing the Messiah into the world through a humble Virgin.” Wisdom is significant in terms of the whole Old Testament precisely with its deep connection to fidelity to the Law of Moses, an ever-present theme throughout all Old Testament books. Also, as mentioned, Wisdom is the last book of the Old Testament to be written, which gives it a unique place in the canon.

Wisdom in the New Testament

Although there is no explicit mention of a wisdom book in the New Testament (partially because of Gnostic controversies regarding the wisdom literature at the time), the themes of wisdom are certainly present in the New Testament in various places, particularly in the writings of St. Paul. {footnote}Baker, S.J., Inside the Bible, 132-34. {/footnote} For instance, there is a connection between the devil and sin causing death respectively in Wisdom 2:24 and Romans 5:12. Also, the knowledge of God through creation is found in both Wisdom 13 and Romans 1. {footnote}Baker, S.J., Inside the Bible, 134. {/footnote}The fact that “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise” (1 Cor. 1:27) and that Paul was wary of preaching with “eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power” (1 Cor. 1:17) shows the contrast between earthly and heavenly wisdom also found in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament (see 1 Cor. 1:17-2:13; Jas. 3). {footnote}Bouyer, The Seat of Wisdom, 43. {/footnote}While there are many ways to fall into the trap of relying on human wisdom, the book of James, echoing Solomon, exhorts us to ask God for wisdom, and it will be given to us (Jas. 1:5). Another mention of wisdom in the New Testament is the story of five wise virgins found in Matthew 25. Since this will be mentioned in the liturgical section, it is not necessary to develop it here. Of utmost importance is to realize that Wisdom finds its primary fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:24,30; Col. 1:15-20, 2:3; Rev. 5:12; Matt. 13:54; Mk. 6:2; Lk. 2:40, 52). Christ seems to refer to Himself in Luke 7:35 when He says, “Yet wisdom is justified by her children.” The closest reference to wisdom literature in the New Testament is found in Hebrews 1:3, which echoes Wisdom 7:26 when it says that Jesus reflects the glory of God. Another striking example of Christ as Wisdom is when the three “wise men from the east…saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” (Matt. 2:1,11). This image shows very distinctly Mary as the Seat or Throne of Wisdom, with the baby Jesus sitting on her lap. This also manifests how the title “Seat of Wisdom” does not exalt Mary as much as it highlights how the Blessed Mother holds Christ up for us to worship Him; this is a thought echoed by Benedict XVI at World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany in 2005. Another example of Christ as the culmination of divine Wisdom is in John 1:14 when “…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The “Word” here is the Greek word “Logos” (λόγος) which can be a thought or even the act of reasoning itself. {footnote}”Dictionary and Word Search for Logos (Strong’s 3056).” Blue Letter Bible. (2008): n.p. [cited 4 April 2008]. Online: http://cf.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3056&t=kjv. {/footnote}In Christianity, the word “Logos” is seen as the personal self-revelation of the wisdom and power of God united with Him in the creation of the world. In short, John says that the Wisdom of God became incarnate in Jesus Christ.

This idea of Wisdom as God’s partner in creation is found in several places, including Wisdom 7:22 which calls wisdom “the fashioner of all things.” In a broader sense, wisdom is in the New Testament as the divine and immutable plan of God, which begins in the Old Testament but culminates in the person of Jesus Christ. Eph. 1:9, as cited earlier in this treatment, states this idea emphatically, saying: “For He has made known to us in all His wisdom and insight the mystery of His will, according to the purpose which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth.” This idea is also expressed in the book of Revelation which describes God as the “Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 1:8, 21:6, 22:13), and therefore as the agent of all of history. Revelation also states that the plans of God require wisdom from the individual in order to understand them (Rev. 13:18, 17:9). It should also be briefly mentioned that Ephesians 3:10 says that “through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places.” This, therefore, says that the Church can also be seen as a manifestation of God’s wisdom. This fact is especially important because it is one passage that states that Wisdom is fulfilled in something other than Christ, namely in the Church which has an indissoluble connection to Him. When this reasoning is extrapolated, one can make the connection of Mary as the prototype and model of the Church. The Catechism, in paragraph 967, states that Mary is the ” ‘preeminent…and wholly unique member of the Church'; indeed, she is the ‘exemplary realization’ of the Church.” Both Vatican II in Lumen Gentium (no. 63-65) and Pope Benedict XVI also recognize Mary as a central type of the Church. {footnote}Ratzinger. Daughter Zion, 67-68. {/footnote} Therefore, by a logical deduction, the Blessed Mother, like the Church, can also be seen as a manifestation of wisdom, with an intrinsic and inseparable connection to Christ, God’s Wisdom incarnate.

Chapter 5:Tradition

It would be advantageous to begin this section with a quote from Mariologist Louis Bouyer on the topic:

What is perhaps most remarkable about his application to Mary of the Wisdom texts is the spontaneous manner in which it seems to have occurred. No great Doctor can be named as having proposed it; but liturgies of both East and West give evidence of what we might call a tacit understanding, a universal instinct, not the outcome of intellectual speculation but giving rise to it. The fact that the Byzantine, as well as the Roman, liturgy makes use of these texts for the feasts of the Nativity of our Lady, her Presentation in the temple, the Annunciation, but not for any feast of Christ, shows how deeply-rooted was this feeling in the whole of Christian antiquity. {footnote}Bouyer, The Seat of Wisdom, 46-47. {/footnote}

At first glance, the writings of the early Church Fathers and Doctors do not display an over-abundance of evidence for the application of the wisdom literature to Mary. But, it is the overwhelming and undeniable testimony of the sensus fidei as manifest in the Church’s liturgy which begins to shed light on this many times overlooked and seemingly obscure relationship of Wisdom to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Although the more thorough theological development of the wisdom texts’ relation to Mary takes place a little later in the Church’s history, there is still ample evidence in the early Church to make such a connection. There have been Masses of Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom including explicit application of Wisdom texts to the Blessed Mother since the 10th Century, and beginning in the 12th Century, multiple titles related to Mary’s deep connection to divine Wisdom become prominent in Morning Prayer and the Litanies of Our Lady. These titles are “Mother of Wisdom, Fountain of Wisdom, House of Wisdom, [and] Seat [or Throne] of Wisdom, of which the last became the most common.” {footnote}Gurrier, ed., Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin, 35. {/footnote}All of these titles, however, are implicit and many times explicit much earlier in the Church than the 12th Century.


 

The Early Church to the Middle Ages

One of the first pertinent references regarding Mary as “Seat of Wisdom” is from St. Ephrem the Syrian who said in 373 that Mary surpassed Christ’s throne in heaven: “How much more honorable and venerable is the King’s mother than His throne.” {footnote} St. Ephrem the Syrian, Hymns on Blessed Mary, 19 (From Palmer, S.J., 18). {/footnote} Ephrem also said, “Heaven is the throne for His glory, yet He sits on Mary’s knees.” {footnote}St. Ephrem the Syrian, Homily on the Nativity (From Cunneen, 173). {/footnote} This idea is also found in Wisdom 18:15 which says, “…thy all-powerful word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne, into the midst of the land that was doomed…” The Word of God, though He had a throne in heaven, needed a new throne when he took on flesh in the Incarnation. St. John Chrysostom, a 4th Century doctor of the Church, was certainly one of the first to explicitly call Mary the “throne” when he says, “Rejoice, mother and heaven, maiden and cloud, virgin and throne, the boast and foundation of our Church.” {footnote}Rotelle, O.S.A., Little Office, 98. {/footnote} The culmination, however, of thinking of Mary as both a “throne” and as the “Mother of Wisdom” comes with St. Augustine (d. 430) who was the first to use the Marian title “Seat of Wisdom.” {footnote}Charles Dollen, Listen, Mother of God: Reflections on the Litany of Loreto, (Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1989) 100. {/footnote}Incidentally, around the same time, St. Jerome (d. 419) became one of the first to attribute a wisdom text to Mary when he applies Song of Songs 4:12 to her saying that she is a “garden enclosed, a fountain sealed.” {footnote}St. Jerome, To Pammachius, Letter 49 [48], 21: CSEL 54, 386 (From Palmer, S.J., 29). {/footnote}At the Council of Toledo XI in 675, Adeodatus speaks of Christ as Wisdom who built a house for herself in the Blessed Virgin (see Prov. 9:1, 14:1), echoing St. Leo the Great in 449 almost verbatim. {footnote}St. Leo I, Letter 28 to Emperor Flavian: PL 54, 763ff (From Palmer, S.J., 30). {/footnote} The council, like St. Leo, also cites John 1:14 (Christ as the “Logos”) as proof of their claim. {footnote}Henry Denzinger, “The Sources of Catholic Dogma,” no. 281-283, Welcome to the Catholic Church on CD-ROM. Version 4.0. 2008. {/footnote} So, while this council does not affirm that the feminine personification of the Wisdom texts refer to Mary, it does show the continued presence of Mary’s relationship to Wisdom in the mind of the Church. The highpoint, however, of this line of thinking emerges in the Early and High Middle Ages (8th to 13th Centuries). St. Andrew, Archbishop of Crete (d. 740), went so far as to say that the entire book of Song of Songs is about her. {footnote}O’Connor, Mary: The Valiant Woman, 21. {/footnote} St. Anselm of Canterbury also saw Mary in the Song of Songs (d. 1109) {footnote}St. Anselm of Canterbury, Prayers and Meditations, 121 (From Cunneen, 155). {/footnote}, as did St. Bernard of Clairvaux (the last of the Church Fathers, d. 1153). Besides those fathers and theologians already mentioned, the mariological interpretation of Song of Songs is also supported by St. Hippolytus, St. Ephrem, St. Ambrose, St. Epiphanius, St. Sophronius, St. John Damascene, St. Germain, St. Peter Damian, Rupert of Deutz, and Allan of Lille. {footnote}Stephano Manelli, All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed, 73 (From O’Connor, 36). {/footnote}St. Aelred of Rievaulx (d. 1167) says that by virtue of Mary’s being the Mother of Christ, she is the mother of our wisdom. {footnote}St. Aelred of Rievaulx, Sermon 20, Nativitate beatae Mariae: PL 195, 322-324 (From Rotelle, 19, 153). {/footnote} Also in the 12th Century, Abbot Odo of Battle Abbey said, “Philosophy is called the pursuit or love of wisdom. Mary is, therefore, the philosophy of Christians for whoever desires the true wisdom must direct all their love and endeavor towards Mary.” {footnote}Dollen, Litany of Loreto, 100. {/footnote} Perhaps one of the most authoritative interpretations of Mary’s deep connection to the wisdom books is from St. Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274). Though he wrote very little concerning the Blessed Virgin Mary, in his few writings which do concern her, he cites the wisdom literature frequently. These references are all found within the six articles of the Summa Theologica under question 27: “On the Sanctification of the Blessed Virgin.” In article 1, St. Thomas cites Song of Songs 4:1 (“Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee”) referring to Mary’s being preserved from original sin. {footnote}Although Aquinas held that Mary did contract original sin, he believed that she was cleansed from original sin in the womb before her birth. {/footnote} He quotes the same passage again in Articles 2 and 4. He also quotes Wisdom 7:25 and Wisdom 1:4 (“nothing defiled…”) for the same purpose, as noted in the rhetorical section. Another telling fact regarding the medieval application of Mary to the wisdom texts is found with a connection to the “Throne of Wisdom” statues which arose throughout that time period, many of which featured peculiarly Black Madonnas. Church authorities could invoke Song of Songs 1:5-6 as an explanation for her dark complexion: “I am as dark…as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Salma. Do not stare at me because I am swarthy, because the sun has burnt me.” Another concept which relates Mary to the wisdom literature is expressed by St. Lawrence Justinian, a bishop who died in 1455. He related the Virgin Mary’s contemplation to her guarding the New Law of divine Wisdom. Interestingly, the best examples of Marian interpretations of wisdom literature in the 16th Century come from the Litany of Loreto itself, used in Loreto since 1531 and approved by Pope Sixtus V in 1587. {footnote}Kris Sommers, “Litany of Loreto,” n.p. [cited 9 April 2008]. Online: http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/prayers/litanylor.html. {/footnote}More than one fourth of the titles used have strong parallelism with, or are simply direct quotes from, the wisdom literature. These titles include “Mother Most Pure” (Wis. 7:24) “Mother Undefiled” (Wis. 7:25) “Mother of Good Counsel” (Prov. 8:14), “Virgin Most Prudent” (Prov. 8:14), “Mirror of Justice” (Wis. 7:26), “Seat of Wisdom,” “Singular Vessel of Devotion” (Prov. 25:4), “Mystical Rose” (Song. 2:1; Sir. 39:13, 24:14), “Tower of David” (Song. 4:4), “Tower of Ivory” (Wis. 7:4), “House of Gold” (Prov. 9:1), “Gate of Heaven” (Prov. 8:34), and “Morning Star” (Song. 6:10). In light of this great number of references, it is clear that the application of the wisdom texts to Mary is truly “the work of the early Church” and is one of the best examples of how living tradition developed Divine Revelation to form the study of Mariology. {footnote} Bouyer. The Seat of Wisdom, 45. {/footnote}

Mary, Conqueror of Heresies

We mentioned earlier how the same wisdom texts could also be applied to Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Church, but it was only a matter of time before the distinct person seen in a close relationship with God would be seen as a mere creature (see Sir. 1:4,9,14; Sir. 24:2,8,9; Prov. 8:22; Wis. 7:15). It is this idea that gives rise to the grave consequences of taking the wisdom texts only as a reference to Christ as noted by Bouyer and Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman. Although this is a long quote, it is written so persuasively it seems that paraphrasing the text would not do it justice:

The Arian dispute exhibits the danger of understanding this purely and simply of Christ, for these same texts insist on the created character of Wisdom. The question therefore arose: who is this someone, so near to God without being God, associated with him in the role of mother of the whole world and of his People in particular, this female figure that fulfils his plan to perfection? It was the analogy between this image and that of the Woman clothed with the sun and crowned with stars, in the Apocalypse, that was to decide on the special application of these texts to Mary. This is so well expressed by Newman that we cannot do better than repeat what he says: “Jesus indeed was really the ‘Wisdom in whom the Father was eternally delighted’, yet it would be natural if, under the circumstances of Arian misbelief, theologians looked out for other than the Eternal Son to be the immediate object of such descriptions…Thus there was a ‘wonder in heaven':…mediatorial, intercessory…a crown bright as the morning star…; and who was the predestined heir of that majesty? Who was that Wisdom, and what was her name, ‘the Mother of fair love, and fear, and only hope’, ‘exalted like a palm-tree in Engaddi, and a rose-plant in Jericho’? The vision is found in the Apocalypse, a Woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. The votaries of Mary do not exceed the true faith, unless the blasphemers of her Son come up to it. The Church of Rome is not idolatrous unless Arianism is orthodoxy.'” (J.H. Cardinal Newman, Essay on the Development of Doctrine, pp. 144-5). {footnote}Bouyer. The Seat of Wisdom, 45-46. {/footnote}

As just alluded to, certain aspects of the image of Wisdom seem to imply only a creature, which causes St. Athanasius (a Church Father who helped in condemning Arianism at Nicea in 325, d. 373) in his work Contra Arianos to admit that there is a created Wisdom which has uncreated Wisdom as its source but is also distinct. The Arians were never conclusively refuted in their concept of wisdom as a created being, although their problem was that they applied the creaturely aspects of Wisdom to Christ instead of to Mary and the Church. {footnote}Bouyer. The Seat of Wisdom, 192. {/footnote}

A parallel error has been committed all the way from the 1st Century Gnostics to extreme modern-day feminists who make the opposite claim that the divine characteristics of Wisdom refer, not to Christ, but to a female goddess. The title of the Blessed Mother as “Conqueror of Heresies” immediately comes to mind upon hearing these ideas. For every doctrine and dogma of the Blessed Virgin Mary only serves as a guarantor and protector of every truth about Christ. If Mary is the Mother of God, then Jesus must be a divine person with both divine and human natures. This truth about the Virgin Mary, therefore, combats every heresy regarding the Incarnation of Christ: 1st Century Gnosticism; 2nd Century Docetism; 4th Century Arianism and Appolinarianism; 5th Century Nestorianism, Monophysitism, and Neoplatonism; and the widespread modern heresies of denying Christ’s divinity. {footnote}Fred Hutchison, “The Historical Development of the Doctrine of the Incarnation,” Columbus (31 March 2004): n.p. [cited 10 April 2008]. Online: http://home.columbus.rr.com/fredhutchison/ Theology%20&%20 Spirituality/Incarnation%20-%20hisory.htm. {/footnote} If Mary is a perpetual virgin, then Jesus Christ must have God as His Father. If Mary is sinless and was assumed into heaven body and soul, then Christ’s death and rising must have really opened up the door to heaven to all those who would believe in and follow Him. If Mary is Queen of Heaven & Earth, then she must be the mother of Christ the true King of the Universe. If Mary is the Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of all Graces, and Advocate, then Jesus must have really merited grace for us through the Cross and placed us in right relationship with the Father. If Mary can be seen as the created incarnation of Lady Wisdom, then one is not forced to resort to Gnosticism or Arianism when interpreting the Wisdom texts in relation to Christ. The belief in Arianism purports that Christ was simply the most perfect of God’s creatures. {footnote} “Catholic Church History, Vol. I:31, Arian Doctrinal Crisis,” n.p., Welcome to the Catholic Church on CD-ROM. Version 4.0, 2008. {/footnote} If one was forced to adhere to this belief, he or she would cease to be Christian because our faith centers around the full divinity and humanity both present in the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Mary. As St. Gregory of Nazianzus said, “That which God did not assume, He did not redeem.” {footnote}Jim McLean, “January – Steven, Basil, & Gregory,” Claves Regni (26 Dec. 1997): n.p. [cited 12 April 2008]. Online: http://nottinghamchurches.org/saints/basil.htm. {/footnote}This, therefore, proves that from the beginning of Christianity, the Marian interpretation of the wisdom texts was strictly necessary in order to safeguard the divinity and the Incarnation of Christ, and therefore the whole of the Christian faith. Spiritual Formation in Seminaries, a 1980 congregation document under John Paul II, expresses this fact very succinctly:

Christology is also Mariology…In particular, devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary can and must be a guarantee against everything which would tend to eradicate the historicity of the mystery of Christ. One cannot help but wonder whether the decline in devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary does not often mask a certain hesitation to profess frankly and openly the mystery of Christ and the Incarnation.

Pope Benedict XVI expresses a similar idea regarding the reality of the Incarnation, saying that, “…only when it touches Mary & becomes Mariology is Christology itself as radical as the faith of the Church requires.” {footnote}Ratzinger, Daughter Zion, 35. {/footnote}Furthermore, the refutation of the Arian heresy explains why this development of Mary as Lady Wisdom of the Old Testament, as well as the explicit references of the correlation between Mary and the wisdom literature, come relatively late in the Church’s history. The Church has never felt the need to define doctrines or clarify subjects before there is confusion, dissension, or controversy surrounding them which must be set at ease by a defined article of faith, explaining clearly and explicitly what the Church has thought on an issue throughout past centuries. Therefore, it was not until Christ as the fulfillment of Divine Wisdom was questioned, that it was necessary to more adequately develop the sophiological Mariology of the Old Testament. This is also fitting to the humble character of the Blessed Virgin who ever-prefers to remain hidden in the background and to allow her Son to receive His due worship and glory. It is only when she must emerge to protect the truth about her Son that she comes to His aid as any mother would.


 

The Modern Era

1. St. Louis de Montfort

While the generous contribution of St. Louis de Montfort to contemporary Mariology is obvious based on the number of references made to his work thus far in this essay, he is worth mentioning again. Besides having the distinction of being one of the most renowned Mariologists in Church history, his works also seem to have the most widespread mention of the wisdom literature in relation to Mary. De Montfort, who died in 1716, is best known for his book True Devotion to Mary. In True Devotion, he lists over sixty explicit references to Mary in the Old Testament, more than three-fourths of which are from the Wisdom books and the Psalms. Most of his wisdom references come from Sirach 24 and Proverbs 8, both prominent texts of Lady Wisdom. However, he does also mention Wisdom chapters 3 and 4 as references to the Holy Spirit and to Jesus, respectively. {footnote}De Montfort, True Devotion, 98, 130. {/footnote}Yet there seems to be hundreds of implicit references to the wisdom books as well as to other Old Testament writings. For example, he gives a lengthy exegesis of the story of Jacob, Esau, & Rebecca without ever citing a single Bible verse. {footnote}De Montfort, True Devotion, 116-121. {/footnote}He also echoes the hyperbolic language of Wisdom 7, referring to Mary as a storehouse of precious hidden treasures. {footnote}De Montfort, True Devotion, 4. {/footnote} Another compelling fact about De Montfort’s vision of Mary hidden in the wisdom texts is that the formulary for the Mass of “The Blessed Virgin Mary, Seat of Wisdom” in the 1987 Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary is taken directly from the proper of Masses of the religious order De Montfort himself founded, the Missionaries of the Company of Mary (see the liturgical section for details on this Mass). {footnote}Gurrier, ed., Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin, 35. {/footnote} Incidentally, de Montfort also founded an order of nuns called Daughters of Wisdom, devoted to Our Lady and the Holy Spirit.

2. Modern Magisterium

St. Louis de Montfort’s work has been especially inspirational to many popes. This adds a great deal of weight to his many references to Mary and the wisdom literature. Advocates of his True Devotion to Mary include Pope Pius IX (d. 1878), Pope Leo XIII (who beatified De Montfort in 1888, and even granted a plenary indulgence for making his consecration), Pope St. Pius X (d. 1914), Pope Pius XI (d. 1939), Pope Pius XII (who canonized De Montfort in 1947), Pope Paul VI (d. 1963), and most significantly Pope John Paul II (d. 2005). {footnote}De Montfort, True Devotion, v-vi. {/footnote}Blessed Pius IX’s 1854 papal bull Innefabilis Deus (which solemnly defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception), citing wisdom literature, says, “The fathers and writers of the Church, well-versed in the heavenly scriptures,…celebrated the august Virgin as the spotless dove, as the holy Jerusalem, as the exalted throne of God, as the ark and house of holiness which Eternal Wisdom built…” Pope Leo XIII uses the title “Seat of Wisdom” in several of his encyclicals, most notably in his 1897 Militantis Ecclesiae and Aeterni Patris, which invoke Mary, Seat of Wisdom, in their conclusions. {footnote}Pope Leo XIII, On the Rosary, 1896, no. 13. {/footnote} Pope Pius XII in his 1950 apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus (which solemnly defined the dogma of the Assumption) says that Song of Songs 3:6, 4:8, and 6:9 all refer to the “heavenly Queen.” John Paul II, as alluded to, agreed with de Montfort’s writings to the point that he even took his papal motto “Totus Tuus” (which means “Totally Yours,” referring to consecrating oneself entirely to Jesus through Mary) from de Montfort’s writings. Indeed, he went on to call de Montfort “one of the great doctors of Marian spirituality.” {footnote} “St. Louis Marie de Montfort,” Daily Catholic,Vol.10,no.82(27April1999):n.p.[cited11April2008].Online:http://www.dailycatholic.org/issue/99Apr/apr27dc2.htm. {/footnote}John Paul II also invoked Mary, Seat of Wisdom in his conclusion to his encyclical Veritatis Splendor in 1993 as well as Fides et Ratio in 1998 and several other homilies. He also had a “Mary, Seat of Wisdom” mosaic icon made in order to be reverently passed among various universities around the world.{footnote}”Devotions to Our Lady Seat of Wisdom,” n.p. [cited 15 April 2008].Online:http://londoncatholic.com/university/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=30&Itemid=50. {/footnote} John Paul II further identified Mary as the Bride of Song of Songs, like so many before him, referencing this topic in several homilies as well as in his 1994 Letter to Families. {footnote}John Paul II, Homily: Live with Mary who is our Hope, 15 Aug. 1979, no. 3. {/footnote} Pope Benedict XVI also has a profound understanding of the connection between the Virgin Mary and Wisdom. In his book entitled Daughter Zion, he says:

It has been argued that these [wisdom] texts can & should allow only a Christological interpretation. After years of wholehearted agreement with this latter view, it is ever clearer to me that it actually misjudges what is most characteristic in the Wisdom texts…a remainder, nevertheless, resists total integration into Christology. {footnote}Ratzinger. Daughter Zion, 26. {/footnote}

He further mentions that “Wisdom” or “Sophia” is a feminine noun in both Hebrew and Greek. He also says (as mentioned earlier) that the Hebrew word for “Spirit” is feminine, and as such can refer to God the Holy Spirit in a veiled way. However there is also a distinction between God and Sophia because from a New Testament perspective, she refers both to creative Logos and to the creature, to creation and to the “fruitfulness of grace” in receiving wisdom. The humble Mary with her cry of Fiat (“Be it done”) is the epitome of this fruitfulness, and in her very person, she exemplifies the true and faithful Israel. Benedict also makes strong statements about the necessity of the reading Mary into the wisdom texts:

The eradication of the Marian interpretation of sophiology ultimately leaves out an entire dimension of the biblical and Christian mystery…To deny or reject the feminine aspect in belief, or, more concretely, the Marian aspect, leads finally to the negation of creation and the invalidation of grace. {footnote}Ratzinger. Daughter Zion, 27-28{/footnote}

Benedict XVI further elaborates that the “woman” of the Old Testament expresses the hope that God will rescue His people, and in the New Testament this hope receives a name in the person of Jesus Christ. Simultaneously, however, this hope of redemption has another name.

The figure of woman, until then seen only typologically in Israel although provisionally personified by the great women of Israel, also emerges with a name: Mary. She emerges as the personal epitome of the feminine principle in such a way that the principle is true only in the person, but the person as an individual always points beyond herself to the all-embracing reality, which she bears and represents. {footnote}Ratzinger. Daughter Zion, 27-28. {/footnote}

The majority of the ideas expressed thus far are succinctly summed up by one of the most authoritative Church documents, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism recognizes the “Seat of Wisdom” title of the Blessed Mother as well as the application of wisdom literature to Our Lady by saying in paragraph 721:

Mary, the all-holy ever-virgin Mother of God, is the masterwork of the mission of the Son and the Spirit in the fullness of time. For the first time in the plan of salvation and because his Spirit had prepared her, the Father found the dwelling place where his Son and his Spirit could dwell among men. In this sense the Church’s Tradition has often read the most beautiful texts on wisdom in relation to Mary. Mary is acclaimed and represented in the liturgy as the “Seat of Wisdom.” In her, the “wonder of God” that the Spirit was to fulfill in Christ and the Church began to be manifested.

This passage even cites Proverbs and Sirach in the footnotes. The magisterial testimony of Mary as Lady Wisdom of the Old Testament as well the unbroken continuity and witness of the Church Fathers proves, without question, the academic and theological soundness of the application of the wisdom literature to Mary.


 

Part IV: Closing Remarks

Chapter 10: What Does It All Mean?

Mary & the Church

Now, we must ask what the ramifications of this study are. It has been established that it is impossible to attribute every verse of the wisdom literature to the Trinity without resorting to heresy. According to Bouyer, “The only possible explanation of these problematical indications lies in the role of Our Lady and the Church, essentially a role of created beings, but of one who brings to perfection the divine image God willed to stamp on the nothingness from which they came.” {footnote}Bouyer. The Seat of Wisdom, 190.{/footnote} All of salvation history is a story of the loving initiative of God and the response of mankind to that Love. The feminine personification of Wisdom, then, becomes a microcosm of this interplay between divinity and humanity, an interplay perfectly fulfilled in the person of the God-man, Jesus Christ. But this is also reflected in Christ’s relationship with the Church, as well as the intimate relationship between a divine person and His human Mother who is the preeminent type of that Church: between Jesus and Mary. Indeed, “…the Church sees Our Lady as the predestinated par excellence…his final realization in the new creature, the Church of the end of time, the entire assembly of the predestined.” {footnote}Bouyer, The Seat of Wisdom, 47. {/footnote}This connection is also clear in that Mary is a type of the Church as “Bride of Christ,” a type which is foreshadowed frequently in the Old Testament as well (see Isa. 54:5; Hos. 2:19-20; 2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:7, 21:2,9, 22:17). One example of this typology is in Wisdom 8:2, in which Solomon desires to take Wisdom as His Bride. Mary, then, as a type of the Church, is also the epitome of the eschatological Bride of Christ, who is “without spot or wrinkle…holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27; see also Song. 3:6). Mary is the final realization of the sanctified Church, present in a concrete historical person. {footnote}Bouyer. The Seat of Wisdom, 200. {/footnote}

The Bride of Christ

When one first hears these ideas, it can be hard to reconcile how Mary can be both the Mother and spiritual Bride of Christ. {footnote}Mary can also be seen as “Daughter Zion” in the Old Testament, yet another relationship of God to a female, thus showing again the idea of Mary as the “woman” par excellence in relation to the Trinity (see Lumen Gentium 55, Daughter Zion by Pope Benedict XVI, Lam. 2:13, Zeph. 3:14-15, Zech. 2:10, Jer. 4:31 compared with Rev. 12:2 (though Mary did not have pain in childbirth), Isa. 62:11-12, Zechariah 9:9 fulfilled in Matt. 21:4-5 / John 12:14-15) {/footnote} It is easier to understand if we return to the “woman” terminology discussed in the rhetorical section. The central theme is that Mary has a deeply intimate relationship with Christ. She is the woman in Jesus’ life because “it is not good that man should be alone,” not even the God-Man. Even Christ Himself in his human masculinity “needs” (again by design not absolute necessity) Mary in order to have psychological and affective maturity as a man. {footnote}Fr. Don Calloway, M.I.C., “Lecture Notes from Maria the Beautiful,” Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, 16 April 2008. {/footnote}Mary can also be called the “sister” of Christ because, as noted in the previous section, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, sister, and mother” (Mark 3:35). This can also be seen in Song of Songs 4:9: “You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride” (see also Song. 4:10, 12). The point made with Solomon and his bride, as with Jesus and Mary, is that there is a profound spiritual closeness of heart. Mary is, in a sense, everything to Jesus in that she embodies the perfection of all creation, of the Church, and of everything that exists outside the Godhead. {footnote}This idea of Mary, and woman in general, as the masterpiece of creation is also present in the Book of Genesis. Since woman is the last to be created, it can be said that she is the crown of creation. This is because the last in execution is the first in intention. An example of this is when a person desires to manufacture a car, he first designs it. Then, the last action to be done (that is, the finished product of the car) was actually the first to be intended, even though there were intermediate steps along the way. So, even though God created both animals and men earlier in the process, his first intention was to create woman as the apex of all creation. (Dr. Michael Sirilla, “Class Notes from Foundations of Catholicism¸” Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, Fall 2005). {/footnote}Therefore, as Christ walks the road to Calvary, He already sees the fruits of His sacrificial Redemption effective in Mary as they will be in the Church. Christ, the ultimate Bridegroom, lays down his life for His Bride, the Church. But, Christ sees the Church through Mary, as she had already received the graces from the Cross before the Crucifixion occurred in history (at the very moment of her conception), and was never without that divine favor. She was indeed always “full of grace” (Luke 1:28). Therefore, before Christ dies on the Cross in order to make His Bride “holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27), He already possesses a concretely sinless Bride: a humble and faithful disciple named Mary. John the Baptist reminds us of this when he says, “He who has the bride is the bridegroom” (John 3:29). {footnote}Calloway, Maria, 16 April 2008. {/footnote} As Christ had not yet sanctified His Bride the Church, this passage must refer to Mary who was preserved from sin at her Immaculate Conception. This plurality of ways to articulate the close relationship Jesus has with Mary is also reflected in the unique relationship which each Person of the Trinity has with Mary. Scott Hahn, in explaining Isaiah 62:4-5, brings all these themes together:

There’s a lot suggested in those two verses: Mary’s virginal motherhood, her miraculous conception, and her mystical marriage to God, who is at once her Father, her Spouse, and her Son. The mystery of the divine maternity runs deep, because the mystery of the Trinity runs still deeper. {footnote}Hahn, Hail Holy Queen, 37-38. {/footnote}

Bouyer also ties all of these complex realities into a cohesive whole by highlighting Mary’s unique relationship to both Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the Persons of the Trinity most closely associated with the wisdom literature:

What is there, then, which could correspond to this image of a being apparently inseparable from God in Himself, bearing, undoubtedly, a quite special relation both to the Son and the Spirit, yet inseparable, too, from a certain reference to creation, under the aspect of the chosen one, the Elect destined to become the Spouse of the Lord? In this connection, the mind turns naturally to the Virgin Mary. {footnote}Bouyer. The Seat of Wisdom, 193. {/footnote}

Based on all these ideas, as well as the various valid interpretations of the wisdom literature, it becomes apparent that the divine attributes of Wisdom must apply to God, and the created elements of Wisdom must be seen in Mary and the Church. Lady Wisdom, then, encompasses Creation and Redemption in a personified unity. If Jesus Christ is Uncreated Wisdom, then Mary must be the created Throne of Wisdom; If Jesus Christ is the Divine Word, then Mary is the humble and obedient answer; If Christ has merited the grace which we receive, then Mary is the fruitful response to that grace. John Paul II communicates this same idea in paragraph 36 of Redemptoris Mater:

Mary is the first to share in this new revelation…and…in this new “self-giving” of God…She is thus aware that concentrated within herself as the Mother of Christ is the whole salvific economy, in which “from age to age” is manifested He who, as the God of the Covenant, “remembers his mercy.”

Therefore, Mary’s uniquely intimate, concrete, and fruitful relationship with the Trinity further supports her association with the created elements of Lady Wisdom in the midst of the many divine qualities also ascribed to this somewhat elusive biblical figure.

The Beloved Disciple

While Mary perfectly reflects the faithful and holy Church in her responsiveness to the loving action of God, our lives, too, are meant to reflect the glorious spiritual fruitfulness of Mary. For if Mary is to be an example of the prayerful receptivity and gracious fruitfulness of the Church, then we must look to her in order to know the depth of what it means to do the Lord’s will and to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. In our own lives, we must sit at the “school of Mary” to learn how to better contemplate the life of Christ from His Mother who “kept all these things in her heart.” {footnote}John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 2002. {/footnote}What better example of allowing Mary to show us her reflections on Christ than in the Rosary, which is an extended meditation on all the central events of Christ’s life and work? Like Solomon, we, too, must prefer Wisdom to health, beauty, wealth, influence, and power. We must choose to enter into a covenantal relationship with Wisdom and Truth, for better or worse, wherever the path may lead. {footnote}Dr. John Bergsma, “Lecture Notes from A Covenant with Wisdom,” Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, 26 April 2008. {/footnote}We must have an unwavering devotion to our Blessed Mother, that she might help us to be “friends of God,” to teach us to trust in God’s ways instead of in our own. Certainly, if we truly strive to be “those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony to Jesus,” then surely we must be the children of Mary (Rev. 12:17). Our very hearts and lives, after Mary’s example, must be a throne which exalts the name of Jesus in the world. All our actions and decisions must be an interior fiat: marked by the humble obedience of Mary, even down the long road which leads to the Cross. We, indeed, must journey to the foot of the Cross and become the “beloved disciple” to whom Jesus entrusted His Mother in John 19:27 when He said, “Behold your mother!” Directly following this exhortation, it says, “And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” We, who are all “beloved disciples” of Jesus, must invite Mary into the “home” of the inner sanctuary of our souls that she may teach us how to love Her Son as deeply as she does. For, just as she told the servants at Cana, she says also to each one of us: “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). We, too, must “keep” the Word, Jesus Christ, as such an intimate part of our daily meditation, reflection, and contemplation, that we, too, might bring the fruit of Jesus Christ into a world which so desperately needs His love and mercy.

Conclusion:

The title “Mary, Seat of Wisdom” as well as the wisdom books’ relationship to Mary seems obscure, and as such is overlooked by many Catholics. This title is not emphasized as much for the simple fact that its meaning is not as plainly obvious as perhaps the titles “Help of Christians” or “Queen of Peace” might be. And yet, it provides a window to a tremendous goldmine of Scripture and Tradition which sheds light on many aspects of contemporary Mariology. Throughout this treatise, we have seen various ways in which the Blessed Mother can be called “Seat of Wisdom”: through her connection to Jesus Christ, Wisdom Incarnate; as the Mother who leads and teaches her children in the ways of wisdom; and in her fulfillment of and cooperation with God’s wise and loving plan to send His Son into the world for us. Mary is indeed the central “woman” of Scripture found battling Satan at the bookends of all of Salvation History. She is the human person most intimately related to the Trinity: the masterpiece of creation, and the epitome of the faithful Bride of Christ. Furthermore, this essay has shown how the widespread application of the wisdom literature to Mary throughout Church Tradition emphatically supports Mary’s title Sedes Sapientiae. In addition, the fact that every major Marian doctrine and dogma is found implicitly within the wisdom texts attests to this thesis’ alignment with authentic biblical scholarship. To this end, it has also been proved that the Marian interpretation of wisdom literature is a necessary consequence of safeguarding the Incarnation of Christ. This fact categorically proves that calling Mary the “Seat of Wisdom” because of her relationship to the wisdom literature ultimately exalts Christ much more than it honors Mary, as reflected by the powerful image of the Three Magi worshiping our Lord while He rests on His Mother’s lap. This is only fitting in that Jesus Christ must be the end and focus of all other devotions, “else they are false and delusive.” {footnote}De Montfort, True Devotion, 37. {/footnote} This is also completely in keeping with the humility of Our Lady, who ever-prefers to remain in background worshiping her Son along with us than to draw attention to herself (a fact proven by the relatively few references to Mary in the New Testament). Through exploring Wisdom 7 as a prototype of all wisdom literature in the context of Church Tradition, it becomes overwhelmingly clear that the wisdom texts not only refer to Mary, but prove that Mary is the icon of created Wisdom. In a word, the feminine personification of Wisdom finds its proper home in the heart & life of Mary, and the title “Seat of Wisdom” is well-deserved. I leave you with the concluding words of John Paul II’s Fides et Ratio:

May Mary, Seat of Wisdom, be a sure haven for all who devote their lives to the search for wisdom. May their journey into wisdom, sure and final goal of all true knowing, be freed of every hindrance by the intercession of the one who, in giving birth to the Truth and treasuring it in her heart, has shared it forever with all the world. {footnote} John Paul II, Fides et Ratio, 1998, no. 108. {/footnote}

Mary, Seat of Wisdom: Pray for us!