O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
who orderest all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!
The Wisdom tradition as it is associated with Jesus is probably the deepest and least discussed image of Messiahship in the Church, and I’m convinced that the fact that Wisdom is a feminine noun and imaged as women throughout the Old Testament is the key reason it is left wanting in the tradition. In fact, it too quite a bit of searching to find a professionally recorded version of Veni, Veni on YouTube that includes this verse.
As the Word (Logos) of God, Jesus, especially in John’s prologue, is very intentionally associated with the idea of Wisdom (Sophia). According to William Placher (Jesus the Savior, 2001), this connection is the result of a growing Wisdom tradition in the Second Temple period, and Christian attempts to explain a Triune God in the Monotheistic language of their tradition.
“Wisdom exists from eternity to eternity. God made the earth through this divine Wisdom; Wisdom is the radiance or image of God, the other of all good things. By Wisdom ‘monarchs reign, and rulers decree what is just.’ Wisdom functions as the means by which God works salvation.” (p. 23)
He goes on to write:
“For Christians looking for a way to talk about the divine Christ who was distinct from the one he called Father without betraying Jewish monotheism, Wisdom offered an already available category. Paul called Christ ‘the wisdom of God.’ (1 Cor. 1:24). Just as Jews had earlier done with Wisdom, Paul and other New Testament writers identified Christ as the one through whom all things were made, the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, and the radiance of God’s glory.” (p. 24)
We lose something when we ignore the role that Wisdom plays in the earliest understandings of who Jesus is and how his relationship with the Father changed the world. We miss out on a way to speak to God’s transcendence of gender when we ignore the development of a theology of Wisdom in Proverbs and the Wisdom of Solomon. It is important as we prepare to move from waiting for the Messiah to the birth of Jesus that we remember those in ancient days who expected the arrival of the anointed one who would show us Wisdom, God’s divine mind and plan, and to rejoice that those expectations were fulfilled in the one we call Emmanuel.