By Sam Spears
The Wheel of Sevens brings together a variety of Christian theological concepts in a simple visual program. It is constructed of seven concentric rings, each divided into seven radial segments. The result is a diagram that can be read both in a circular fashion, by following each of the concentric rings along its circumference, and "vertically", by treating each radial segment individually. Though each ring offers a list of seven related theological concepts, the significance of the wheel relies on the vertical relationships between the rings.
Primarily, the diagram offers an extended explication of the seven verses of the Lord's Prayer, which occupy its outermost ring. Each inner ring juxtaposes one of its own seven terms to the appropriate verse of the prayer. Thus, the second outermost ring or "circumference" aligns each verse of the prayer with the corresponding work from the seven ecclesiastical sacraments. The third ring aligns each verse with the appropriate gift of the Holy Spirit. The pattern continues in each successive ring, with the fourth ring aligning the seven verses of the prayer to the seven spiritual weapons of justice, the fifth to the seven works of mercy, the sixth to the principal virtues, and the seventh to the criminal vices. The vertical relationships are reinforced by the repetition, at the beginning of each segment of each ring, of the appropriate conjunction: hic (here), et (and), sic (thus), or ita (thus). These conjunctions give the progression across the rings the appearance of logical necessity. The nature of the "explication" that the diagram provides, however, is not logical, but rhetorical. The diagram relies on a visual arrangement to associate seemingly divergent theological ideas.
By virtue of its structure and its circular shape, the Wheel of Sevens participates in a tradition of cosmological diagrams. Underlying its explicit theological content is its implicit identification of microcosm with macrocosm, of man with the cosmos. For the reader of the wheel, the human quest for virtue assumes, through Christian theology, a cosmological significance. The diagram's exploitation of the number seven, which Augustine associates with the unification of heaven and earth, reinforces its symbolic significance. It gestures towards the underlying spiritual order that lies beyond physical representation.