Song of Songs

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21 December 2017

The Jewish Rabbis often say that if there were only one book in the bible it would be the Song of Songs. Strange enough, the word “God” does not appear in this Old Testament book, which numbers just eight chapters. Why all the fuss?

It is a book that celebrates erotic, human love. It does this unashamedly and quite graphically. Today’s reading comes from chapter two and finishes with these beautiful words:

‘Come then, my love,
my lovely one, come.
My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock, in the coverts of the cliff, show me your face,
let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is beautiful.’

The Greeks had various words for love – words that denoted love of friendship, love of family, love of man and woman, and love of God. Our English language has just the one word and is a touch impoverished.

Erotic love originally meant the ‘salvific desire for the other.’ That is, this person who I have fallen in love with will ‘save’ me. Sexual love was understood in a much richer sense than it is today. That is to say, the ancients understood sexual love within the context of a friendship and relationship that was redeeming for both man and woman. The whole person was desired, not just their sexuality.

In the Song of Songs erotic love is also symbolic of God’s love for us. That is, God has deep desires for each one of us and has seemingly established a reciprocal desire within each one of us. We desire God and won’t be satisfied until we possess him.

The Song of Songs is quite insistent about these reciprocal desires and it is the reason why the Lover and Beloved in the book seem to be continually searching for each other, yet never quite seem to have their desire satisfied.

God, and only God, will satisfy our desires. In fact, he will fulfil them beyond all telling.

The Song of Songs in praise of human love. The Song of Songs in praise of divine love.



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