February 6, 2012
The Bible As It Was, scripture scholar James L. Kugel
points out that the Sages have long wrestled with a problem
arising from the very first verse of the Book of Genesis.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the
earth.” Elsewhere in the
scriptures, however, we have learned of something that preceded
God’s creation of the world, and so occurred before what Genesis
says is the beginning.
In Proverbs 8:22 we read:
“The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the
first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up, at first, before the beginning of
the earth.” And we hear
in Wisdom 9:9: “With you
is wisdom, she who knows your works and was present when you
made the world.” Before
the beginning of the heavens and the the earth God created
wisdom, a wisdom that is present as God creates the universe, so
that all of creation is an expression of Divine wisdom.
In our preceding reflections we noted that presence to
God is awareness of being loved and cared for; that self
presence is presence to all other dimensions of reality; and
that our presence can reflect to others the Mystery of the
Presence to us. To be
fully present to Reality, then, is to be present to the Divine
Wisdom that is its source.
Our presence to this Divine Wisdom changes our way of
being, our most basic dispositions.
8:22-6, we read:
The LORD brought me forth as the first of
before his deeds of old;
I was formed long ages ago,
at the very beginning, when the world
came to be.
When there were no watery depths, I was
when there were no springs overflowing
before the mountains were settled in
before the hills, I was given birth,
before he made the world or its fields
or any of the dust of the earth.
I was there when he set the heavens in
when he marked out the horizon on the
face of the deep,
when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the
when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his
and when he marked out the foundations of
Then I was constantly at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.
“Now then, my children, listen to me;
blessed are those who keep my ways.
Listen to my instruction and be wise;
do not disregard it.
Blessed are those who listen to me,
watching daily at my doors,
waiting at my doorway.
For those who find me find life
and receive favor from the LORD.
But those who fail to find me harm
all who hate me love death.
This passage from Proverbs teaches that
everything that is created is created “in Wisdom.”
The dispositions of this wisdom are the “delight and
rejoicing” that come from being constantly at God’s side.
Wisdom “delights in humankind.”
The nature of wisdom is appreciative, not depreciative.
Finally, those who find wisdom and nurture her (by
watching daily at her doors), find life while those who fail to
find her “harm themselves and all who hate [her] love death.”
Our fear and avoidance of the pain in death and loss
leads us to shrink from life and creation, from full presence.
But Proverbs tells us that when we fail to find wisdom in
the only way we can, by presence to and hospitality toward
reality and creation in its fullness, we are actually choosing
death. In our attempts
to avoid death, we come to love it.
In our willingness to grow in trust of creation and its
wisdom, even though we feel it has harmed us, we find life.
Thus, the way of fostering deeper presence in our lives is a
letting go of the hurts and fears that have left us at a
distance from our hearts, which carry our capacity for a simple,
receptive presence: to self, to others, to the world, and to