Last Friday I donated to Saint Sophia. It wasn't much by a long shot, just a meager few dollars, but a wholly unexpected set of feelings and callings were ushered forth and I have been contemplating the experience all week.
Walking into the local Walmart mumbling over the list of things I needed to pick up for the weekend, I heard, then saw, an older man dressed in a plain brown robe with a long salt and pepper beard asking for donations on behalf of the St. Sophia Orthodox Church. "Homes for homeless" was the call. Normally, I shy away from donating money to churches. As a general rule, and I am going to be absolutely blunt about this, I feel that there are a lot of things that many would not like about me and my beliefs and so I feel my money is not worthy of them either. I do have exceptions, such as donating food or clothing and occasionally when the cause is beyond their own pulpit. But that day I suddenly felt the need to put my money into the wooden box. My memory flashed back to the time when we lost our home to a house fire and became relatively homeless for about a year and how it really took a tole on our family. First living in the old, unattached garage, having to bath in the still working shower with no hot water, then moving into my grandfather's house with the constant pressure of feeling very unwelcome by his wife--at least the salt-softened water was warm. But to many homeless, that's still a roof over one's head and I thought of the blessings I have been given by the Spirits and Divines since then from that great loss.
The story behind St. Sophia and her three children, Faith, Hope, and Love (sometimes as Charity), is brutal and terrible, but the story and religious commentary are allegorical. Some Orthodox churches don't even recognize that story as the basis for their name, rather, they view it as another aspect of Jesus. Regardless, it wasn't her sainted namesake or story that called to me, but the meaning behind her name. The link to a higher wisdom and reason (Logos). Athena called. Sophia spoke. I was so taken aback that I felt as if I went on autopilot. I walked through the store gathering my non-essential weekend materials mulling the feeling over. After checking out, I nearly "autopiloted" straight to the car, but the old man's call woke me and at once I felt the need to give.
Sophia means "wisdom" in Greek and I have always loved Athena for her role as the Goddess of Wisdom. The concept of Hagia Sophia is immensely sublime to me. Holy Wisdom. Attributing wisdom, learning, and knowledge to a holy deed. Picking up and absorbing a book as ritual practice. Hagia Sophia is recognized as the Holy Spirit of the Christian trinity in female form in some Christian mysticism sects; giving a Gnostic notion of feminine balance to the male dominated faith. Holy Wisdom in and of itself is beautiful. Coupled with the idea that one of femininity's gifts she offers is comfort, as a mother would comfort her child, linked all these ideas together in perfect sense. Homes for the homeless were being given by such a feminine form as Sophia, no matter her manifestation or what association with this church, it was beautiful and compassionate and it moved me.
I have a personal philo-sophia. Combined, we get the word philosophy, but I like the thought of the words hyphenated. Philo-sophia. The love of wisdom. It's simpler, yet expansive. The Sophiaology of Hellenistic philosophy. It felt as though Athena was calling out to me. Rekindle our connection; I understand. Give and know me again. I gave for Athena. I gave for Sophia. I gave my offering for compassion and hope to those who need it.
The Personification of Wisdom
at the Celsus Library in Ephesus, Turkey