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1. The Canticle we just heard presents to us a great part of a lengthy prayer put on the lips of Solomon, who in biblical tradition is considered as the just and wise King par excellence. It is offered to us in the 9th Chapter of the Book of Wisdom, a writing of the Old Testament composed in Greek perhaps at Alexandria in Egypt, at the dawn of the Christian era. We perceive the expression of an enduring and open Judaism of the Hebrew Diaspora in the Hellenistic world.
There are essentially three currents of theological thought proposed to us by this book: blessed immortality as the final end of the existence of the righteous (see Chapters 1-5); wisdom as divine gift and guide of life and of the choices of the faithful (see Chapters 6-9); the history of salvation, in particular the fundamental event of the exodus from Egyptian oppression, as a sign of that battle between good and evil, which leads to full salvation and redemption (see Chapters 10-19).
2. Solomon lived some 10 centuries earlier than the inspired author of the Book of Wisdom. However, he was considered the founder and ideal author of all subsequent wise reflection. The prayer in the form of a hymn put on his lips is a solemn invocation addressed to the "God of my fathers, Lord of mercy" (9:1), that he would grant the most precious gift of wisdom.
Evident in our text is the allusion to the scene narrated in the First Book of Kings, when Solomon, at the beginning of his reign, goes to the heights of Gibeon, where a shrine was erected, and, after having celebrated a grandiose sacrifice, has a dream-revelation during the night. At the request of God himself, who invites him to ask for a gift, he answers: "Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong" (1 Kings 3:9).
3. The inspiration offered by this invocation of Solomon is developed in our Canticle in a series of appeals addressed to the Lord, that he will grant the irreplaceable treasure of wisdom.
In the passage presented by the liturgy of lauds we find these two implorations: "Give me Wisdom. ... Send her forth from your holy heavens and from your glorious throne dispatch her" (Wisdom 9:4,10). Without this gift one is aware that one is without a guide, as if deprived of a polar star that will guide one in the moral choices of life: "For I am ... a man weak and short-lived and lacking in comprehension of judgment and of laws ... if Wisdom, who comes from you, be not with him, he shall he held in no esteem" (verses 5-6).
One can easily intuit that this "Wisdom" is not simple intelligence or practical ability, but rather participation in the very mind of God who "in his wisdom has established man" (see verse 2). It is, therefore, the capacity to penetrate the profound meaning of being, of life and of history, going beyond the surface of things and events to discover the ultimate meaning, willed by the Lord.
4. Wisdom is like a lamp that illuminates our daily moral choices and leads us on the straight path, to "understand what is pleasing in the sight of the Lord, and what is right according to his commandments" (see verse 9). For this reason the liturgy makes us pray with the words of the Book of Wisdom at the beginning of the day, precisely so that God will be next to us with his wisdom and "assist us and support us in our (daily) toil" (see verse 10), revealing to us the good and the evil, the just and the unjust.
Taking the hand of divine Wisdom we go forward confidently in the world. We clasp her, loving her with a spousal love in keeping with the example of Solomon who, according to the Book of Wisdom, always confessed: "Her (namely, wisdom) I loved and sought after from my youth; I sought to take her for my bride and was enamored of her beauty" (8:2).
5. The Church Fathers identified in Christ the Wisdom of God, following St. Paul, who defined Christ as "the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24).
Let us conclude now with a prayer of St. Ambrose, who addresses Christ thus: "You teach me words rich in wisdom, because you are Wisdom! Open my heart, You who have opened the Book! You open that door that is in heaven, because you are the Door! If we are introduced through You, the eternal Kingdom will be possessed; if one enters through You, one will not be deceived, because he cannot be mistaken who enters the dwelling of Truth" ("Commentary on Psalm 118/1" ["Commento al Salmo 118/1"]: Saemo 9, p. 377).
[Translation by ZENIT]
[At the end of the audience, the Holy Father gave this summary in English]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Canticle found in the ninth chapter of the Book of Wisdom reminds us that true wisdom comes from God. This wisdom is not just knowledge, or talent, or skill, but rather is a sharing in the mind of God himself. In fact, King Solomon asks the Lord to send forth the gift of wisdom so that he may learn what is pleasing to God.
Without this wisdom we amount to nothing. But with it we are guided to holiness and righteousness. It allows us to understand history, helping us to look beyond mere appearances and to appreciate the deepest meaning of life. With Solomon let us beg the Lord for his gift of wisdom, to enlighten our hearts and minds in the ways that are pleasing to him.
I extend a special welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims here today, including the groups from, Denmark, Australia, and the United States. May your visit to Rome be a time of spiritual enrichment. Upon all of you, I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.