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Vigils Reading: Weekday
A Reading from a Sermon on the Song of Songs, by Bernard of Clairvaux.
What does [the bride] mean then by saying: “I am beautiful like the curtains of Solomon”? I feel that here we have a great and wonderful mystery, provided that we apply the words, not to the Solomon of this Song, but to him who said of himself: “What is here is greater than Solomon.” This Solomon to whom I refer is so great a Solomon that he is called not only Peaceful─which is the meaning of the word Solomon─but Peace itself; for Paul proclaims that “He is our Peace.”
The bride’s form must be understood in a spiritual sense, her beauty as something that is grasped by the intellect; it is eternal because it is an image of eternity. Her gracefulness consists of love, and you have read that “love never ends.” It consists of justice, for “her justice endures forever.” It consists of patience, and Scripture tells you “the patience of the poor shall not perish forever.” What shall I say of voluntary poverty? Of humility? To the former an eternal kingdom is promised, to the latter an eternal exaltation. To these must be added the holy fear of the Lord that endures forever and ever; prudence too, and temperance and fortitude and all the other virtues; what are they but the pearls in the jewelled raiment of the bride, shining with unceasing radiance?
How lowly! Yet how sublime! At the same time tent of Kedar and sanctuary of God; an earthly tent and a heavenly palace; a mud hut and a royal apartment; a body doomed to death and a temple bright with light; an object of contempt to the proud, yet the bride of Christ. She is black but beautiful, daughters of Jerusalem: for though the hardship and sorrow of prolonged exile darkens her complexion, a heavenly loveliness shines through it, the curtains of Solomon enhance it…Indeed you must note the prudence, the great wisdom, the amount of discretion and sense of fittingness generated in the bride by that controlled interplay of lowliness and exaltation according as occasion demands, so that amid the ups and downs of this world her sublime gifts sustain her lowliness lest she succumb to adversity; while her lowliness curbs her exaltation or good fortune will bring it toppling down. These poles of her life act so harmoniously. Though of their nature opposites they will work with equal effectiveness for the good of the bride. They subserve her spiritual welfare.