Wisdom, and the “Place of Understanding”

“Whence comes wisdom, and where is the place of understanding?” – The Bible

2000-10-04 18.49.02

Church, St Pancras Road: London

“Do you know where you’re going to?” – The theme from “Mahogany

A former-Protestant turned Pagan, my most profound religious moment happened in an Orthodox church.

Most of our visits to St George were family related: a service before a Mother’s Day lunch; another which was followed by a performance by a Romanian dance troop; the occasional “parastas” service for a relative, or family friend.

I relished such visits. After the Plain Jane experience that was our local church, going someplace where the sights – such sights, such colour! – sounds, and even smells were exciting, and mysterious, was a breath of incensed air.

"White Flowers" (Florele Dalbe)

“White Flowers” (Florile Dalbe)

Occasionally, I could hum along to some of the songs, though I couldn’t join in. Many years ago, my father told me: “My Romanian accent is bad, but yours is worse.”

I cannot remember exactly when I saw the splendidly dressed deacon lift up the huge, elaborately decorated Bible, and chant the single word: “Wisdom!”

Inside, something thrilled, was moved, was amazed. So many times, during my Protestant childhood, and youth, I heard about sin, and duty, and – by inference, if not directly – guilt.

Never before, outside of Bible stories of Solomon, had I heard about “wisdom”.

Years later, in school, we sang this:

“Whence comes wisdom, whence comes wisdom? And where is the place of understanding? It is hid from all eyes, and revealed by the mouth of the Lord.”

Many miles, and years, later, I became aware of Paganism. About how God can be gods. About how the connection made with them can be through the earth beneath our feet, without the need to put on tights, and a skirt, and sit in a pew.

Horsechestnut in a  Yorkshire wood

Horsechestnut in a Yorkshire wood

What did I want? a Pagan friend asked. Wisdom, I said. I’m looking for wisdom.

Have I found it? Occasionally, perhaps: glimpsed in the distance.  Dancing, like a leaf in the wind, or shining, like a reflection in the water.

A trick of the light, a brief visit by a bird to my garden feeder, a phrase on a page, a comment from my husband, a client, a friend.

The mouth of the Lord is an awesome, glorious, sometimes frightening thing. And it is everywhere, and anywhere.

I wish you wisdom. I wish you peace, asthe green blade rises.”

Old, older still: St Olaf's, York

Old, older still: a York church.

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