Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hebrew Testament Text for Sunday 30 August 2015

Song of Songs 2.8-13   
The voice of my beloved!
Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Look, there he stands
behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
looking through the lattice.
My beloved speaks and says to me:

“Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away;
for now the winter is past,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away.”   

Reflection        Unlike most of the rest of the Bible, nearly seventy-five percent of the words spoken in the Song of Songs are the woman’s voice. This poetic call to love with its references to mountains and hills, a gazelle and a stag, flowers, changing seasons, verdant vines and fragrant blossoms locates human love in the context of the garden, and associates human love with all that is good in creation.  This offers an alternative view to the longstanding historical interpretation of the woman in the Song as the adulterous woman who represents Israel’s idolatry or the Church that has lost her way.

We live in a time wherein many women are bought, sold, abused and exploited. Across the globe women are discounted, disrespected and held in contempt. The outrageous fact is, in many places the status of women has not much improved in the twenty-six hundred years since the Song of Songs was written. That said, we need to hear the Song of Songs. We need to hear and we need to see revelations of love, longing and desire, invitations offered and invitations accepted as reminders of what love can be; a mutuality of desire and consent, joyful relationship in accord with the goodness of creation.

The Song of Songs reminds us of what love can be. The Song of Songs is a finger pointing beyond the edifice of human codes and concepts, traditions and doctrines that separate us from the love of God and one another. The Song of Songs is an invitation to acknowledge our deepest desires and longing and accept the invitation to live fully and freely rooted in the commandment to love. 

Of course we can extrapolate from the dramatic poem and offer theological reflections on God’s love of God’s people and Jesus’ love of the Church. But we must be careful “Not to teach human precepts as doctrines,”(Mk 7.8) in other words,  not to ignore God’s commandments and hold onto human tradition.  We must be careful not to slip into dualistic thinking creating codes and characterizing love as human versus divine.  When one of the scribes asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one;  you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mk 12.28-31) And the unknown writer of the Song of Songs shows us what love looks like. Fully human and fully divine, freely given and joyfully received. Amen. 

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