Oh Virtus Sapientiae

Oh Virtus Sapientiae

 A number of years ago I studied medieval literature. I concentrated on women mystics of the 10th-12th centuries. I particularly enjoyed Hildegard von Bingen, Hroswitha of Gandersheim, Julien of Norwich and Margery Kemp. I spent several years listening to the music constantly–plainsongs, chants–anything to make the learning rounder, more complete. I often wished I could travel back  and live as a beguine or nun or just in a household–like Kivrin Engle did in Connie Willis’  The Domesday Book.


This post is about is wisdom, or the old word for it, sapientiae , which means not just wisdom–but in a greater sense, discernment and memory.  I wonder when do we become wise? Or when CAN we become wise. What does it take? Can we be wise about somethings but not others? Or is this a more general thing that comes to pass? Can a youth be wise or must it wait for age?  I think you do require memory for wisdom–the memory of mistakes, the memory of successes. Discernment, ah that one I’ll be working on until the end of my time, for sure. I do more readily recognize other’s motivations now –much more than I used to and can relegate certain actions to their proper places–for example the person who, when they make a mistake, makes sure to nitpick my actions. Or how I need to clean or organize when things are difficult for me, say at work or other areas. I  know I have more wisdom now, or is it just knowledge– in some areas than I did. No, I think wisdom because with knowledge  you don’t necessary have peace, but I think with wisdom you do. I have some small amount–with things I grew up with or experienced, with violence, with fear and finally with love. I have finally experienced real and absolute love in being Em’s mother–which has it’s own deep wisdom. And no matter what may happen with J and I (and I don’t foresee anything bad) I have known the wisdom of the truest deepest friendship and love I’d ever conceived of. The wisdom of years spent depending on each other, slogging through difficult times, dancing through wondrous times and walking through the rest. 


Julian, Hildegard, Hroswitha and especially Margery–all remained true to themselves. That is wisdom (and courage) . They survived many forms of adversity to speak with clear voices. I only hope I have the courage and wisdom to do the same.




 Latin text


O virtus Sapientiae,

quae circuiens circuisti

comprehendendo omnia

in una via, quae habet vitam,

tres alas habens,

quarum una in altum volat,

et altera de terra sudat,

et tertia undique volat.

Laus tibi sit, sicut te decet,

O Sapientia.


 English translation


O strength of Wisdom

who, circling, circled,

enclosing all

in one lifegiving path,

three wings you have:

one soars to the heights,

one distils its essence upon the earth,

and the third is everywhere.

Praise to you, as is fitting,

O Wisdom.



(Yes, a very serious post, it has been a rather trying last few months and sometimes it just hits)


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