A blessed ‘feast’ of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, Sedes Sapientiae, an ancient and venerable title of the Virgin Mary celebrated on June 8th as the Chora tou Achoretou, the ‘container of the uncontainable’, the new ‘ark of the covenant’, the ‘chosen shrine’, as the sixth century hymn by Venantius Fortunatus has it, ‘in which the Architect divine’ made His dwelling. She is the seat of incarnate Wisdom, that highest of the intellectual virtues, by which we see the deepest reality, the ultimate cause, the highest truth.
Many days in the liturgical calendar, in fact most, have such a memorial to various titles of Our Lady, only a few of them celebrated in the public liturgy. This day, of course, is special to me as the patronal feast of the College at which I teach. In fact, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom is the universal patroness of all Catholic schools, universities in particular, and Pope John Paul II closes his encyclical Fides et Ratio, on the theme of the complementarity between faith and reason in the search for truth, to the Virgin Mother with these words:
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.
This is also, providentially, the day on which Our Lady of Combermere is celebrated, patroness of Madonna House whose main centre is just down the road from us, and annually on this day members publicly profess their promises of poverty, chastity and obedience. The greatest gift one can give to God is the gift of oneself; and, on the flip side, as Saint Philip Neri said, the greatest gift Our Lady can give to a soul is a vocation to the religious and consecrated life.
Whatever be our own path, and however we ‘give’ ourselves to God through Our Lady, rejoice, entrust your petitions and intentions to the Mother of God, who listens and intercedes. And pray for wisdom, that virtue and gift by which we are enabled to see all things sub specie aeternitatis, under the aspect of eternity. The Pastoral Constitution, Gaudium et Spes warned, the world stands in peril, unless wiser men are forthcoming, and our world is filled with distinctly un-wise men.
But fret not. As Saint Teresa of Avila would pray:
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
We should recall that God is omnipotens, all-powerful, yet dwells amongst us in the form of humble bread and wine. If God the Father, His Christ, with His Holy Spirit, are – is – with us, who, really, can be against? And does the Creator of the universe not listen to she who is His own mother? And does not a mother listen to her own children?
Sedes Sapientiae, ora pro nobis!