The shelter and starlight of Sophia

My past two posts (and probably many others – whether known or not) spoke of the Sacred Feminine; this breath of the Divine that dwells powerfully within us, among us, beyond us. We feel her presence. We sense her gathering strength. We get glimpses of her in the alchemy of conversation, in each other’s implicit and nearly cellular-level strength and perseverance as women, in our awareness and increasing embrace of something both known and unknown. Though unnamed, unformed, and even unimaginable, we cannot help but believe (even if haltingly) in her existence. And yet, she is mysterious.

Mystery, in and of itself, faces much resistance. For hundreds of years now, within Modernism, the encounter of mystery in any form, has been met with swift attempts to define and dissect. We have parsed, reasoned, and argued ourselves into constructs and systems of logic and proof. This has applied to the sciences, architecture, the arts, and certainly theology, beliefs, and faith. Undeniably, vast strides of knowledge have been gained within Modernism’s reign, but that does not mean we’ve gained or even maintained wisdom. The two are not synonymous: knowledge and wisdom. In fact, over these many years, wisdom has been lost.

And when wisdom is lost

  • we doubt and mistrust our intuition
  • we doubt and mistrust our voice
  • we doubt and mistrust our deepest, internal truth – especially as women.

But wisdom has never been lost. Not really. Potentially misplaced. Often misunderstood. But always present.

In Greek, the word for wisdom is Sophia.

Many ancient writings, both secular and sacred, refer to wisdom as a person. The feminine pronoun is always used and is consistently reflective of the divine presence. This wisdom is Holy Wisdom: Hogia Sophia.

Joyce Rupp wrote an article entitled Desperately Seeking Sophia in which she says,

the Book of Wisdom describes Sophia guiding the Exodus people through the wilderness: “She led them by a marvelous road. She herself was their shelter by day and their starlight throughout the night” (Wis. 10:17). This passage was clearly another way of speaking about the faithful God who “went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day … and a pillar of fire by night” (Exodus 13:21). I was finally convinced that Sophia was truly another way of naming the divine.

I cannot begin to express how the quoted words from the Book of Wisdom have moved me while writing this post. It is the first time I’ve read them.

Sophia. In the wilderness. My terrain. My space. My passion.

If you’ve read much of what I’ve written you know that I have a deep and abiding belief that there is something profound about the desert (as metaphor) for women. This naming of a female presence, indeed, of the Sacred Feminine in these stark and desolate places is nearly more than my heart can hold. I want to weep – in gratitude.

Wisdom was never lost.

  • My strongest intuition has been worth trusting all along: the desert’s beauty does have a power and presence to it unmatched by any other. Sophia has been with me.
  • My voice has been worth hearing : though my own journey has been filled with arid and painful realities, I have continued to speak. I have roared. Sophia has heard me.
  • I have told the truth. I have known, expressed, and embodied wisdom in these places. Her name is Sophia.

Though oft’ unnamed, unformed, and even unimaginable, I have known the shelter and starlight of Sophia.

Wisdom is brilliant, she never fades. By those who love her, she is readily seen, by those that seek her, she is readily found.

(The Book of Wisdom, 6:12)

As women, we have lost (and had taken from us) the powerful stories, metaphors, tastes, and dwellings-with; an experience of the Divine that looks and sounds like us. We need words, language, and experiences that reground and validate our intuition, our voice, our truth. We need the Sacred Feminine.

Sophia is here. She is speaking. In shelter and starlight. In strength.

I am too.

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    { 10 comments… read them below or add one }

    Nicki April 22, 2010 at

    Thank you! Thank you to the writers of the Bible for this Old Testament passage. Thank you to Joyce Rupp for her insight on the passage. And, thank you to you, Ronna, for talking about the passage. I have never read this particular passage before but as I read what you wrote I went to a study book I have on women in the Bible and will read more about Sophia.
    .-= Nicki´s last blog ..Takes a Village … =-.


    Ronna Detrick April 22, 2010 at

    You’re welcome, Nicki. It is, indeed profound, that these allusions made it into Sacred Text – particularly given the overriding constructs of the day. ‘Just affirms for me the power and undeniable beauty of the Sacred Feminine. She cannot be hidden or silenced.


    Angie Cox April 22, 2010 at

    “Wisdom was never lost.” I love the abundance contained in that short sentence. If wisdom was never lost, then it also isn’t found, bestowed, or earned/learned. It just is…always there patiently waiting to be given a voice. It is yet another piece that has been present within us forever, yet many times our environment convinces us otherwise. If I accomplish nothing else in raising my girls, may I teach and encourage them to trust that wisdom, their inner voice, their intuitive sense, no matter what their age or circumstances, just as I am learning to do the same.


    Ronna Detrick April 22, 2010 at

    Spot on, Angie. As a mother of daughters – and for myself – I deeply desire and intend the same.


    Deb Kirkeeide April 22, 2010 at

    Sophia. In a conversation this past week with a friend, we discussed our names. What we might choose if we were to rename ourselves – I said Sophia. Not that I consider myself one filled with wisdom, but I have been drawn to it for many years. Maybe because it represents the acceptance and discovery that as a woman I hold that within me and am learning to trust my inner voice.

    I love this discussion you are having on the Sacred Feminine. The absence of the feminine in my early religious experience left me cold, did not make sense to me, and it wasn’t until I started studying Her that I could discover my own spirituality.

    Thanks for such wonderful conversations and contemplations!
    And yes, we need the Sacred Feminine!
    .-= Deb Kirkeeide´s last blog ..Return to the Summer Queen =-.


    Ronna Detrick April 22, 2010 at

    I love that you would rename yourself Sophia, Deb. So beautiful! And yes…trusting your inner voice…especially in the midst of religious experiences that were cold at best, harmful at worst is MORE than enough, profound, and so, so wise. Yes: Sophia for sure!


    Karen Sharp April 23, 2010 at

    I want to say something cogent and beautiful, but all I’m feeling is my throat full and my eyes welling up with tears.


    Thank you.


    Ronna Detrick April 23, 2010 at

    Mmmm, Karen. And here am I: throat full and eyes welling up with tears in response. Yes. Thank you. You are both cogent and beautiful.


    Kelly Diels April 23, 2010 at

    I have a soft spot for Sophia.

    Once upon a time, I studied (political) philosophy. Then, when I was doing my MA, I was a TA for a political philosophy.

    Philos/Sophia = love of knowledge. Wisdom.

    Love that word. Love philosophy. Love my baby: Sophie.

    My other daughter is Lola, and in Lingala, her father’s mother tongue, Lola means heaven.

    It is the first word I learned on my own in Lingala just by deducing it from context.

    Wisdom and Heaven: my dreams for my daughters.

    And the world.


    Ronna Detrick April 23, 2010 at

    Every word you write is intentional, spacious, and weighty Kelly. All the more, the names for your daughters. ‘Love this…and of course, love you! May we be wisdom and heaven for one another…and usher it into our midst over and over again!


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