A blessed ‘feast’ of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, Sedes Sapientiae, an ancient and venerable title the Virgin Mary 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.
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 complementarity between faith and reason in the search for truth, to her prayers in 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. Today is the day that their members make their promises of poverty, chastity and obedience, whether temporary or, as a friend of mine today, final. The greatest gift one can offer to God is oneself; and, on the flip side, as Saint Philip Neri said, the greatest gifts Our Lady can give to a soul is a vocation to the religious and consecrated life.
So rejoice, entrust your petitions and intentions to the Mother of God, who listens and intercede.
This is also the Vigil of Pentecost, the second-greatest solemnity in the Church’s liturgical year, closing off the Easter season with great hope and joy. For if Christ, and His Holy Spirit, are with us, who, really, can be against?
Sedes Sapientiae, ora pro nobis!