She loves. He is love. She is thirsty. He is a fountain.
Bernard de Clairvaux on the Song of Songs.
I’ve found myself entangled again lately with the Song. It’s crept into my readings of Scripture. Ostensibly I’m reading Matthew. That’s what I’d say if you asked. But the truth is that I’ve been reading Matthew for six months and I’m still not halfway through. I’m not really reading Matthew. I’m crossing and crisscrossing the Old Testament, chasing down the echoes of my heart.
Echoes of wilderness. White heat of Cherith. No-Place which became Some-Place, site of annunciation by the God-who-sees. Silent desert where Valley of Trouble gives way to Door of Hope. And in this place of liminality, seeming transition, I have received invitation rather into the thing itself. Allured towards the tender-speaking of the one whose name is Jealous.
Here I have been haunted by words about love as strong as death, jealousy unyielding as the grave. About setting the beloved as a seal upon the heart. Words which have become woven with Teresa of Avila’s talk of impression with his seal. I have longed that my soul might become, in her words, ‘so surrendered that it neither knows not wants anything more than what He wants with her’ (V.2.12).
And I have found myself in the Song of the one who loves and the one who is Love. The little-dormant rational of me has wrestled with the text. Questioned whether this is about marriage or the Marriage. Wondered how far story of Solomon and his bride is also story of the Lover and his Bride. Debated too whether there’s a third in Solomon’s cast, the Shepherd. Fought to decide whether the mystics have overplayed their hand in speaking more of Beloved as believer than church. Made myself so sick of my churnings that I’ve wanted to ignore the text as problematic.
Then, in grace-gift, I have remembered again the call to sit under the text which the church has called inspired. And here he has been finding me, his name like oil poured out, his love sweeter than wine. In a way I don’t yet understand, the king has brought me in. Some days ago he invited me to go with him to the mountain of myrrh, to the hill of fiery incense. What I saw there was to my undoing before him. And then, though my flesh faltered violently at the sight of the cup, I ate of his food and drank of his wine, covenant meal and promise of his return. And in my Amen to the Yes of the one whom my soul loves, here he has been finding me.
I love. He is love. I am thirsty and he is the fountain.