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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Christ, the Fairest of All Men (With a Video)


Upon venturing on my sixth post up to date, I figured I should not only instruct, but also delight my reader with some meditative insights into a wonderful book in the Bible that often goes ignored or unnoticed, the Song of Songs.

The Song of Songs is a tiny book that consists of 8 chapters, yet every page is saturated and overflowing with the love of God to the apex of creation, the human.  The book is attributed to King Solomon, who wrote it to one of his wives.  Solomon’s love for his wife prefigures Christ’s love for his Church.  This relationship between God and his people, which resembles that of a bridegroom and his bride, is not a novelty introduced to us in the New Testament.  In Isaiah 54:5, God says, “For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the LORD of hosts.”  This by itself speaks volumes of God’s love for us.  I ask all the faithful husbands out there, how dearly do you love your wife? To what extent would you defend her (especially when she cooks a nice meal for you)?  That love that you have for your wife is a tiny shadow of God’s love for us. 


Having said that, it would not be apt to read this book in a literalistic manner that deprives the text from the richness of its figurative sense.  Due to the space that I have here, I will not attempt to decipher all the 8 chapters of the book.  Instead, the first three verses in the opening chapter will suffice. 

1 The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's.
2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine;
3 your anointing oils are fragrant; your name is oil poured out; therefore virgins love you.

Before stating anything about the content of these verses, please note the poetic form in which they are written.  The book was meant to be a poem, and the name Song really means that the textual portion of it, is nothing else other than a poem. Just like all poems, one must understand and give precedence to its figurative meaning over its literal sense.  Nonetheless, it is very important that we understand what is happening at the literal level before we can comprehend its figurative meaning.

In this short excerpt, we find that all 5 classical types of imagery (Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, Gustatory, Olfactory) are invoked to rouse the reader’s 5 senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell).  However, as discussed above, the senses are nothing more than a pathway or a conduit leading to the deeper abode of the spirit.  Indeed, this is the natural progress of human understanding.  It begins at the literal/sensual level, but progresses deeper into the figurative/spiritual realm.  The first imagery invoked is an auditory one.  Immediately at the start of the poem, the reader is told that this is a “Song.”  This classification instantly rings a warning bell in the reader’s ear, which hints at the romantic nature of the book’s content.  The next imagery used is a visual one, the image of a bride who is experiencing a powerful surge of longing towards her absent lover and the fervent “kisses” of His “mouth.”  In the first half of the same verse, a kinesthetic imagery is invoked by using the word “kiss,” to engage the reader’s sense of touch.  In the second half of the verse, the kinesthetic imagery is exchanged with a gustatory one as the “taste” of love is compared to the “taste” of “wine.”  Finally, this literary device is carried through to the next verse.  The imagery turns into olfactory, awakening the reader’s sense of smell.  The “anointing oils” of the lover are “fragrant” and bear a pleasant odour, which delights the bride.  Of course, this sensuality speaks of a higher truth or a deeper end.  To this effect, Our Lord asked His Disciples when they were lacking in faith, “Do you have eyes, but fail to see? And ears but fail to hear?” (Mark 8:18). The senses begin absorbing Christ’s divinity at the primordial level, through nature.  Once the senses are freed from the lower appetites, faith in Christ, namely in His divinity, begins to stir inside a soul, conjuring the most fulfilling and satisfying reaction, which not only rouses spiritual consolation, but also satisfies the five senses as well.  The bride speaks of this life-changing experience in this short excerpt through the extensive use of imagery.

1 The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's.

The first verse states the book’s title in a superlative mode, Song of Songs, meaning that this Song is not just any song.  It is unlike the rest of the songs ever written; it is set apart and separated from all the other songs; it is consecrated, sanctified and made holy because this Song is not directed towards just any lover.  Rather, the subject of this song is the best of all lovers, the “fairest of all men,” Christ Jesus, whose love for mankind is complete, authentic, and unconditional (Psalm 45:2). It is the “Song of songs,” the ultimate poetic expression of love and tenderness.  No other song can surpass this one in meaning and significance.  It is an original image that acts as a model that is to be duplicated, resembled, and imitated.

2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine;

The entry into the poem is an invocation or a supplication by the beloved, the bride seeking the “kisses” of her lover’s “mouth.”  This intense overflow of emotions, which is communicated by a powerful desire for a physical gesture, is an expression of a passionate love.  Literally, this act expresses the love between a husband and a wife.  Figuratively, the invocation or the supplication of the bride (the Church, or the individual soul) is expressed in a prayer.  In essence, prayer is an act of love between two lovers, Christ and the Church or the individual soul.  In the same intense passion with which a kiss between husband and wife is exchanged, so prayer must be raised and given to Christ.  Otherwise, if the kiss is lacking passion, it is fake and not genuine.  Naturally, the response of a lover to a fake gesture of love made by his beloved is sadness and melancholy.  The lover becomes sad and melancholic at the indifference, apathy, and even deception to a certain extent, expressed in a fake gesture of love.  This is precisely how Christ feels when a prayer that lacks fervor is offered to Him in indifference.  Please note another aspect of this invocation.  The lover is mentioned using the third person pronoun, “Him.”  The reason behind this is twofold.  First, it demonstrates the level of respect and reverence the bride has for her lover.  Second, it signifies that while the lover is absent physically, He remains present in her heart.  Likewise, Christ is in the heart of His bride, the Church and/or the individual soul who has been “betrothed” to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2).   

The verse goes on into a comparative mode, “your love is better than wine.”  The comparison between “love” and “wine” is apt because both objects produce pleasure.  However, the pleasure of “wine” is a fleeting one, which passes away momentarily after the effect of alcohol is gone.  On the other hand, the “love” of Christ is a joy that sustains a soul for a lifetime and retains it in that disposition for all eternity.  The effect of “wine” on the body of a human being is intoxication and deliriousness.  Conversely, the effect of Christ’s “love” on a soul is an overwhelming joy and ecstasy.  “Wine” can be destructive; Christ’s “love” is always constructive.  Elsewhere in the Scriptures, this exact comparison is made but in different terms.  St. Paul tells us not to get “drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).  Note how “wine” leads to “debauchery,” whereas the constructive alternate to this “mocker,” (Proverbs 20:1) the antidote for this “debauchery” is to be “filled” with the “Spirit of Christ” (Romans 8:9).  In effect, no one has ever experienced God’s “love,” that love which is “better than wine,” except he who has the “Spirit of Christ” in him.  Nobody has every tasted this “love,” which the bride prefers over “wine,” except he who has tasted Christ’s love.

3 your anointing oils are fragrant; your name is oil poured out; therefore virgins love you.

The bride declares her lover’s “anointing oils” to be “fragrant,” and that His “name is oil poured out.”  Those “anointing oils” are none other than those oils received at the Sacrament of Confirmation.  In this Sacrament, the faithful receive the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord.  This is further solidified in the Book of Ezekiel, when God says to his beloved bride in the Old Testament that He “bathed” her, “washed” her “off” her “blood,” and “anointed” her “with oil” (Ezekiel 16:9).  Note the order. First He “bathed” her, which is Baptism.  Then, He “anointed” her, a clear reference to Confirmation. The bride’s exhilaration at this act of love from her lover is evident in the declarative statement that she makes.  When She receives the “anointing oils,” She is rejuvenated and given the strength to witness and testify.  Likewise, those who live their vocation in the Church and are faithful to the sacraments, upon receiving the “anointing oils” of the Sacrament of Confirmation are given the strength and vigour to witness and declare to the entire world how “Wonderful” is the “name” of their Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (Isaiah 9:6).  The “virgins” in this verse correspond to the “wise” ones in the parable of the Ten Virgins, whose “lamps” were full of “oil” when the bridegroom came to fetch them (Mathew 25:2, 4).  Included with these five Virgins is everyone who recognizes the true value of Christ and accordingly, has given his life over to Him, who, “while we were sinners, [He] died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Christ, “the fairest of all men,” the best of all lovers is calling on your heart, inviting you to share in the blazes of his loving and passionate fire.  Refuse Him not; reject Him not.  Open the door and embrace Him.  Watch this video below, and let me know what you think.







2 comments:

  1. The Church and the Spirit say, "Come!" May the Bridegroom come quickly, and may we hasten His coming by conforming our minds to His Mind.

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