Saint Sophia

There were four words that were important to me, when I woke up much too early this morning. They are usually important, but sometimes, I ignore important because of pain or distraction or the uncomfortableness of my reality.

Their faces rest in my bedroom and oversee the ebb and flow of messy and tidy (although, lately, there has been an abundance of messy). Theirs is a tragic story that gives me everything they lost, years ago, before any of this could be considered comfortable. They lived real lives and suffered real death. They give meaning to my living.

Sophia is a Greek word that means wisdom. This word is special. I remember reading down a list of names, and this one, well, it spoke to me. The word philosophy is derived from sophia: philo-sophia. Love of wisdom. When I saw this name, something in me longed for it, connected to it, connected to her.

She was the mother of three: Faith, Hope, and Love. Wisdom named her daughters after the chief Christian virtues, a reminder that you can’t have one without the other.

Her daughters were tortured and killed because they refused to deny their Christian faith. I don’t know if my ancestors were early Christians. It’s possible. They converted at some point, but I don’t know when. But Wisdom and I are connected now, part of the same tribe. So they were my sisters who suffered and died for their faith, faith that, today, is never a threat to my life.

Wisdom buried her three daughters after their martyrdom. Then, Wisdom died of grief at their graves. Now, she is known as a martyr as well.

This is my ancestor. I am born into her family through a different kind of blood, a different kind of life. And now she is part of the cloud of witnesses. Now, we are called by the same name. It is not in vanity that I seek to be wise. I seek to be like my namesake, my intercessor, and—at times—my comforter. I seek wisdom in faith, hope, and love. You cannot have one without the others.

And when I pray, I know that I am participating in the unnamable truth of community and communion. It is more abstract and more beautiful than all things I have known. I see her face; I know she is beckoning me in, beckoning me to the one on whom her eyes are fixed, the one whose wisdom is perfect, whose love is perfect, the one in whom hope does not disappoint.

This is mystery.

3 thoughts on “Philo-Sophia

  1. Thank you, Claire. I so needed this today. I’m going to beg their intercession, especially Sophia’s as I wrangle with this Comparative Religion class which really turns out to be a philosophy class. It is so hard for me to understand Kant and Sartre, and Mircea Eliade. I find it difficult to pinpoint what I disagree with in their arguments, and then there’s always the perspective of the professor who grades my papers. It’s my final class before my comprehensive exams and it’s the hardest one.


  2. Thank you Claire for reminding us of those who have paid the price, going before us & not backing down from their faith no matter what the cost.


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