Tuesday, November 28, 2006

True Wisdom

Saint Bernard, abbot, On the search for wisdom

Let us work for the food which does not perish; let us do the work of our salvation. Let us work in the Lord’s vineyard so that we may deserve to receive our daily penny. Let us work in Wisdom who says: “Those who work with my help will not sin.” “The field is the world,” said the Truth, let us dig in it; a treasure lies hidden, let us dig it up. It is Wisdom herself who is drawn out from the hidden places. We all seek her, we all long for her.

“If you will inquire,” he says, “inquire; turn and come back.” Do you ask what you are to turn back from? He replies, “Turn back from your appetites.” “But,” you say, “if I cannot find Wisdom in my own appetites where do I find it? My soul longs passionately for Wisdom, and if I did happen to find her, it would not be enough just to find her unless I could put into my lap a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over. And rightly so. For “happy is the man who finds Wisdom and is rich in understanding.” Seek her, therefore, whilst she may be found, and call on her whilst she is near. Do you want to know how near she is? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart,” but only if you seek it with a true heart. Then you will find Wisdom with your heart and from your lips will pour forth understanding.

You have indeed found honey if you have found wisdom, only do not eat too much lest you gorge yourself and become ill. So eat, as to be always hungry. For Wisdom herself says, “Those who eat me will hunger for more.” Do not set too great a store on what you have; do not gorge yourself lest you vomit and what you seemed to have is taken away from you because you gave up the search too soon. Not even whilst wisdom may be found, whilst she is near, should we give up searching and calling on her. Otherwise just as, in the words of Solomon, “It is not god to eat much honey,” so “he who pries into majesty will be overwhelmed by its glory.”

It is a true saying, “happy is the man who finds wisdom,” and it is even truer to say, “happy,” or rather, more happy, “is the man” who dwells with her. Perhaps this is what is meant by pouring forth.

Clearly, you pour forth wisdom or understanding from your lips in three ways: if on your lips there is the admission of your own sinfulness, thanksgiving and the voice of praise, and words that encourage. For indeed, “a man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.” And “at the beginning of his speech the righteous man is his own accuser”; and in the middle of his words he gives praise to God, and in the third place, if so far wisdom has poured forth, he must also encourage his neighbor.

No comments: