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O Sapientia

Christ in Majesty from St. Sernin in Toulouse, c. 1096

Christ in MajestyThis image of Christ in Majesty, beautifully wrought in stone, shows us the mystery of Christ’s present existence: the heavens, framed by the mandorla, have been opened to allow us to see Christ in his heavenly glory. His right hand emerges from this heavenly space to bless us. His left hand holds the Book of the Gospels, which contain his wisdom for us. The words imprinted on the Gospel are from St. John: Pax vobis, ‘Peace be with you.’ The full text from St. John, which an intelligent observer would know, is worthy of note: ‘Peace be with you,’ Christ says, ‘as the Father has sent me, even so I send you. . . Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven.’ Thus the phrase, Pax vobis, carries with it the mystery of the Trinitarian life of God: the Father who sends, the Holy Spirit who is sent. It also conveys the continuity between this life and the life of the Church, holy and apostolic: as the Father sends the Son, so the Son sends his Apostles, to bestow his peace and blessing through the sacraments in the Church.

Note the presence here of the symbols of the four evangelists: the eagle, the man, the lion and the ox. These are derived from the Book of Revelation (and ultimately from Ezekiel) where their work as heavenly beings is to adore the one who sits upon the throne, and the Lamb before it: the Father and the Son Incarnate. Here the four living creatures are depicted as gazing at Christ in adoration. This is the essential work of an Evangelist and the essential purpose of his Gospel: to adore Christ in majesty and to lead us to adore him. Here surely is Wisdom, and holy prudence.

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem,
fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

By Fr Thomas Trottier, Cong. Orat.

St Philip's Seminary, Toronto
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