Arise my love....

The 14th Sunday after Pentecost
Year B - Proper 17
Song of Songs 2:10

The Song of Songs contains words which seem, at first glance, to belong more properly to a romance novel or a love song:  Joy on the part of the Beloved at the presence of the Lover - deep longing and anguish at his absence.

"My beloved speaks and says to me: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away;"

In fairness, there has always been a hesitation both within official Judaism and Christianity to make much of the intimacy which these words convey. Such readings were usually relegated to "alternate" status in sundry lectionaries and were accompanied with warnings about the (merely) "symbolic" nature of the language they contain.

It goes without saying that we are frightened of our feelings.   We may think they represent the least ordered part of our personality.  In Church on a Sunday morning we would like to appear ordered.  Our sermons become fairly cerebral. Our worship services kept well under control.   It was left, then, to the mystics - to people like St John of the Cross and St Theresa of Avila - to state that God was a lover and that the human soul was the beloved.   The well-known dramas of will and coyness, of excessive, rapturous presence set as a counterpoint to feelings of abandonment were a fruitful way of describing the relationship between God and the human soul.  

The torrid romance story is not completely dead as an interpretative tool.


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