What are the steps to Wisdom? St Augustine teaches us there are seven steps to wisdom. Fear of God, the beginning of wisdom, is the first step. “We should be led by the fear of God to seek the knowledge of His will, what He commands us to desire, what we should avoid.” Fear of God should make us mindful of our mortality, so we will always remember our death before us, so we can crucify our pride “as if our flesh were nailed to the tree.”
We are as quick to forget Fear of God as we are slow to remember our mortality, as we are reluctant to accept our suffering, as we are quick to seek cheap grace and an easy faith. Fear of God is like sweating in Church, Loving God in an air-conditioned sanctuary is what we seek. But Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and the end of wisdom is seeking the Love of God.
The Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, seeking repentance and contrition, the Fear of God is standing outside feeling the thunder shake the earth in a fierce thunderstorm, with immediate lightning lighting up the night air, with the tumultuous rain falling so fast it is hard to breathe, comprehending that our lives are in the palm of the hands of the Almighty to do with as He will. Standing in Fear of God is standing in awe of the thunder and lightning, standing in awe of the Almighty God, showing respect for the Creator of all, respect that is too often lacking in a modern world that can explain thunder and lightning all too readily. If we lack respect, we cannot love.
Piety is the second step to wisdom, the humility of piety, the contrition of piety, the piety that subdues our hearts, the piety that opens our hearts to the admonitions of Holy Scripture, the admonitions that exposes the hidden sins and deepest secrets of our hearts. St Augustine teaches us that we should “that whatever is written in Scripture, though it be hidden, is better and truer than anything we could devise by our own wisdom.”
The Fear of God and piety prepares us for the third step of wisdom, knowledge, precious knowledge that the ardent student of Scriptures earnestly seeks, the knowledge that every verse of the Holy Scriptures teaches us,
“That God is to be Love for His own sake,
And our neighbor is to be loved for God’s sake,
And that God is beloved with all of our hearts and all of our souls and with all of our minds,
And that we should love our neighbor as ourselves,
And that our love for our neighbor, like our love for ourselves, should have reference to God.”
Love God with all of our heart and with all of our soul and with all of our mind and with all of our strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves, all else is commentary!
Love of God is inseparable from love of neighbor. In his Confessions St. Augustine teaches us that as blessed as friendship can be, when our love of our friend or spouse consumes our life, when we love our friend as if they would never die, then the love in our friend may not be a healthy love, for a healthy love is when we love our friend in God.(cary) As St John of the Cross teaches us, our love for our friend should deepen our Love for God.(dark night)
The knowledge we seek as Christians is what it means to truly Love God completely, to truly love our neighbor as ourselves, the knowledge that is more sought than acquired, and St Augustine assists us in our search for this wisdom, for much of his work On Christian Doctrine and Teaching explores what it means to Love God and to love our neighbor.
St Augustine teaches us that we find in Scriptures that we are drawn from the Love of God and our neighbor by the entangling love of this world. This knowledge makes us not boastful, but sorrowful, but hopeful, not despairing, as we pray with unceasing prayers for Divine help in our distress, so we may arrive at the fourth step, strength and resolution, in which we hunger and thirst after righteousness, turning away from the things of this world, gazing on the face of Jesus, fixing on things eternal, on the holy things, on the “unchangeable Trinity in unity.”
By fixing on holy things with unceasing prayer, the pilgrim cleanses his soul in the fifth step, the counsel of compassion. “At this stage he exercises himself diligently in the love of his neighbor; and when he has reached the point of loving his enemy, full of hopes and unbroken in strength, he mounts to the sixth step, in which he purifies the eye itself which can see God, so far as God can be seen by those who as far as possible die to this world.”
The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and wisdom is the seventh and last step and goal of our quest, true wisdom, wisdom we seek for its own sake, not sought to please others, not sought for our own gain, but sought so we can truly learn what it means to Love God, to seek God, to seek to Love God with all of our hearts and with all of our minds and with all of our strength and with every ounce of our being, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. B2,C7,537-538