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Archive for March 27th, 2019


Sirach 25-27: The Ideal Wife

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

While we are looking to the “passions” for fulfillment, our desire for the infinite is doomed to be frustrated.  Once we realize this, we discover that God alone can satisfy the need which is basic to our nature.  (Olivier Clément, author and professor of Eastern Christian Spirituality in Paris, MAGNIFICAT Meditation of the Day, for yesterday.)

Today’s Noontime tells us all we need to know about integrity when in relationship with one another and with God.  The Description of an Ideal Wife (26:1-18) falls just in the middle of this selection and we find it bracketed by descriptions of Wicked Versus Virtuous Women, and Dangers to Integrity and Friendship.  Jesus Ben Sirach cannot be more specific in his description of what an ideal wife does in her household and in her relationships.  Since we are each called to be the bride of the groom, Jesus, we might consider what this ode has to say to us.  Our marital state, sexual orientation and gender do not matter.  What does matter here is this: that we examine what it is that moves us, what calls us to passion of any kind – physical, mental, spiritual – and that we respond with integrity in every single relationship and every single place just as described in the image of the ideal wife in today’s reading.

All of this reminds me of yesterday’s meditation in MAGNIFICAT.  Clément continues by citing Origen (an early Egyptian Christian theologian who lived in Alexandria from 185 to 254 C.E).  Origen has described a striking vision of the soul plumbing the depths of evil by experiencing the horror of excess; after actually dying, having journeyed through the infernal regions, it eventually realizes that evil has its limitation, that one can be surfeited with it to the point of utter boredom.  Then God is revealed as alone inexhaustible, to whom everyone, even Satan, will turn in the end.

We hope so.  Perhaps in this way there is a purpose to pain and suffering – no matter how stark and how deep.  Clément writes that when we enter into suffering with Christ, we discover something we never dared hope for, that our hellish autonomy has been breached by sin, death and despair, that these have opened us to the mercy of the living God. 

In our twenty-first century relativistic world in which we value autonomy above all else – even if it is hellish – we might read today’s lesson and smirk, thinking that the images of the ideal wife are quaint and outdated.  But they are not.  They are as valid and as prescient and as imperative today as on the day they were written.

We fool ourselves when we think we can out-run, out-smart or out-maneuver evil.  No matter how comfortable, how connected and how clever we are, we find – in the end – that we have only out-maneuvered ourselves.  We have gotten no further.  We have not held onto the fleeting sensations of pleasure.

Seeking pleasure is not seeking God, it is seeking after satisfaction.  Pleasure is good in that it gives us an immediate sense of happiness and the impetus to search for true joy; but the happiness brought by pleasure does not last.

Searching for meaning in life will not give us that which our souls seek . . . a true and intense relationship with something that will never go away, never fade.  Only God has the capacity to love this well and this constantly.

Looking for ourselves in excesses, abstentions, infatuations or addictions does not bring us true serenity and joy; it does not bring us to a true understanding of who we are and what we mean.  Only in God do we find ourselves.  And only in giving ourselves over to God as the ideal wife gives herself over to her vocation, do we enter into his bliss.


A re-post from March 27, 2012.

Image from: http://samanthamccowan.theworldrace.org/?filename=biblical-love

Cameron, Peter John, Rev., ed. “Meditation of the Day.” MAGNIFICAT. 12 March 2009. Print.

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