December 17, 2020
Today the ‘O’ antiphon, December 17, is ‘ O Most High Wisdom’ – it speaks of Wisdom arranging all things fortiter and suaviter – that is powerfully and yet so agreeably and tastefully.
This is not just a nice idea for the Church. She always has in mind the Lord Jesus. In Him, She sees the One who brings together all whom sin has driven apart. He is the One who has broken down the dividing wall of enmity through His flesh. He does this powerfully (fortiter) because at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and yet agreeably (suaviter) – the bruised reed He will not break and a faintly burning wick He will not quench.
In the past, I dreaded the genealogies in the Gospel – you are buried under a relentless avalanche of unpronounceable names and you cannot wait for an end to it. However, the genealogy of St Matthew is very interesting. Genealogies in the Ancient Near East were ‘man’ things. In fact, St Luke has 76 men in his genealogy. No women admitted and he was addressing Gentiles. You would expect, St Matthew, who was writing for Jewish believers to be even more mindful of not offending the sensibilities of his Jewish hearers.
Yet St Matthew, the Jew, has 5 women in his genealogy. Obviously, all males in the family tree were Jews. So St Matthew resorts to the novel expedient of naming the mother at particular points so as to sneak in the women. With the exception of Mary, all the other 4 – Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba were Gentiles. This was not the pure and unsullied priestly genealogy of someone like John the Baptist. I am sure this mattered a lot for Matthew – the hated tax collector, the quintessential outsider, especially when he is addressing Jews who are steeped in their self-righteousness, who would have wanted Gentiles to remain beyond the pale and women to ‘keep to their place’. The Messiah Himself blows all this apart.
Even as the strands of DNA are coming together over the centuries for Christ in the flesh, Wisdom has been so preparing the flesh of the Messiah to bring together Jew and Gentile silently, powerfully, and yet gently. And not just Jew and Gentile but even the righteous and the unrighteous. We have Tamar- who by posing as a prostitute traps her father-in-law, Judah. And we have Bathsheba, who knowingly sets out to seduce David by doing something no self-respecting Jewish woman would do – bathe on her terrace knowing that she was being seen by the king. Matthew holds his nose as he comes to her. He cannot even use her name. She is ‘the wife of Uriah’. And yet he cannot eliminate her either. The very DNA of the Messiah incorporates Bathsheba the sinner her into Himself along with the righteous Gentile, Rahab, and that most beautiful holy woman, Ruth who is a type of that greatest woman, Mary of Her was born, Jesus who is called the Christ. He in the flesh is Wisdom Most High, who before His conception was already bringing together the estranged children of God and even now is breaking down the walls of enmity in His flesh so that God may be all in all.