Sophia: Beloved Travelling Companion

What was your favourite story when you were a child? Have you reflected on how that story may have influenced your adult life, shaping your longings, your choices, in ways of which you were unaware?

Walking the sand shore by the lake at our Community’s holiday house “Stella Maris”, I have been reflecting upon Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s book, The Divine Feminine in Biblical Wisdom Literature (Skylight Illuminations, 2005). Again and again I found something as old as longing, as fresh and new as a summer breeze. Like this, from the Wisdom of Solomon (6: 15-16)

Resting your thoughts on Her—
this is perfect understanding.
Staying mindful of Her-
this is perfect calm.
She embraces those who are ready for Her,
revealing Herself in the midst of their travels,
meeting them in every thought.

Now, seeking words to convey the wonder, the joy awakened in me, I think of guidance, then companionship, or having a wise friend to turn to in times of doubt or struggle…
A memory comes of summers spent in my grandmother’s home, entering the magic within a heavy, hard-cover book of Hans Christian Andersen’s stories. The tale I turned to over and over again was “The Travelling Companion”.

Like many of Andersen’s stories, it begins with a young person who is sad: John’s father has just died and he is all alone. Before setting out into the wide world, he makes a last visit to the graveyard to say goodbye, promising he will be good and kind, as he, his father had always been.

On his travels, John takes refuge from a storm in a church, where a coffin rests before the altar. To his horror, John sees two men approach the coffin, and open it. From their gruff words, he learns that the dead man owed them money so they plan in revenge to dump his body in a field. John offers the men his entire inheritance from his father if they will leave the dead man in peace. Laughing derisively at his foolishness, they agree.

Now penniless, John resumes his journey. One day, he is joined by a stranger who asks if they might travel together to seek their fortunes. This stranger becomes a companion to John, and much later, after many adventures, guides John to successfully solve magical riddles and thereby win the hand of a beautiful princess.

On the day following the wedding, the stranger, travelling knapsack on his back, walking stick in hand, comes to say goodbye. John is devastated, having hoped his friend would stay with him to share the happiness he had won for him. But the stranger says, “No, my time on earth is over. I have paid my debt. Do you remember the dead man whom the evil men wanted to harm? You gave everything you owned so that he could rest in his coffin. I am the dead man.”

With these words he disappeared.

Somewhere within I have held the longing for such a “travelling companion”, for a friend who would walk with me, guide me, advise me when I was perplexed, comfort me when I was sorrowful, show me how to make my way along the pathways of life as they opened before me.

Through Shapiro’s unfolding of the Wisdom passages in the Hebrew Scriptures, I recognized in Sophia/ Chochma the beloved friend I had sought, the One who

embraces those who are ready for Her,
revealing Herself in the midst of their travels,
meeting them in every thought.

Even more, I recognized that I had already found Her. Through my lifetime, She has come to me in different guises, bearing different names, from Mary to Isis to Sophia to the “Friend” who offers daily guidance in the smaller and greater aspects of my life, walking with me, a light in darkness.

It is she whom I now recognise as the presence who sometimes speaks in the poetry of Hafiz, especially in this one, sent to me by a friend shortly after the death of my sister Patti:

Keeping Watch

In the morning
When I began to wake,
It happened again…..

That feeling
That you Beloved,
Had stood over me all night
Keeping watch.

That feeling
that as soon as I began to stir
You put your lips on my forehead
And lit a Holy Lamp
Inside my heart.
Renderings of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky: I Heard God Laughing

Who among us does not yearn for such a presence of love? And yet the beauty of Wisdom-Sophia is that we have only to desire her in order to find her:

Do you desire Me?
Come to Me!
Do you crave Me?
Eat My fruit!
Even the Memory of Me is sweeter than honey,
And to possess Me is sheer ecstasy.
(The Book of Sirach 24:19-20)

Reflecting on these words, Shapiro writes:
When it comes to Wisdom let your desire guide you. Take Her and eat of Her and do so without reserve or hesitation. She wants you to want Her, and desires to give Herself to all who hunger for Her.

And if we fear losing her, or even if we know we have in the past both found and lost, Shapiro encourages us that the Memory of Her love will stay with us and push us to seek Her again…. Her gifts of simplicity and grace cannot be matched. And when we receive them, the narrow self is overcome with joy and the spacious self unfolds in bliss.

For each one of us, May it be so! (And so it is!)

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One thought on “Sophia: Beloved Travelling Companion”

  1. My favourite story was “Five Children and It ” in which a magical sand fairy, the Psammead, gave wishes to a group of brothers and sisters. What I learned from it was “Watch for what you wish for!” because the wording of a wish is EXTREMELY important. My favourite movie story was The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, in which a woman with no training but large faith pays her own way to go to China as a missionary. The iconic moment for her comes when the head of a prison where a prisoner has gotten hold of an axe and is madly attacking everyone inside the prison walls challenges her to prove her faith by going into the prison and getting an axe away from the crazed man. The prison head promises that if she can do that then he will allow her to preach to the prisoners. She faces the big doors of the prison with fear in her eyes and then you see her pull herself together, straighten her back, gather her courage and calls out “Open the gates!” Once inside she faces the man, holds out her hand to him and says “Give me the axe!” He threatens her with it and she repeats her words looking directly in his eyes with confidence. The man collapses in tears and gives her the axe and she puts her arm around him in a gesture of compassion and love. I learned from it that having faith in something can give you the confidence to overcome fear.

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