Vigils Reading: Weekday

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Vigils Reading: Weekday

November 26

A Reading from a Sermon on the Song of Songs by St Bernard[1]

This is the title: “The Beginning of the Song of Songs of Solomon.” Observe first the name of the Peacemaker, “Solomon”; that is appropriate at the beginning of a book which opens with the sign of peace, the kiss. And note, too, that only minds at peace are invited by this kind of opening to understand the Scriptures, minds which master the disturbances caused by the vices and the tumults of care within themselves.

Again, the title says not simply “Song,” but “Song of Songs.” Do not think that that is unimportant. I have read many songs in Scripture, and I do not remember any with that title. Israel sang a song to the Lord because he had escaped the sword and yoke of Pharaoh, and the twofold miracle of the Red Sea both freed and avenged him. The song he sang is not called “The Song of Songs,” but, if I remember correctly, Scripture says, “Israel sang this song to the Lord”.

Deborah sang and Judith sang, and the mother of Samuel sang, and some of the prophets sang too. And none of them is said to have called his song the “Song of Songs.” You will find, if I am not mistaken, that each sang in gratitude for himself or on behalf of his own people, for a victory, for example, for escape from danger, or for something longed-for which had been given. And so then many have sung, each for his own reason, so that they should not be found ungrateful for God’s goodness to them, as in “He gives thanks to you, O God, for blessing him” (Ps 48:19).

But King Solomon, singular in wisdom, sublime in glory, rich in possessions, secure in peace, is not known to have been in need of any benefit for whose granting he would have sung this song. Nor does Scripture itself anywhere say that he did. And so, divinely inspired, he sang the praises of Christ and the Church, of the gift of holy love and the mystery of eternal union with God. And at the same time he expressed the longing of the holy soul, its wedding song; and exulting in the Spirit, he composed a joyful song.

Yet it is in figurative language. It is not surprising that he veiled his face like Moses. It must have shone no less than Moses’ face did when he met God face to face, for in those days there was no one, or almost no one, who could bear the glory of the face of God unveiled. Therefore I think this wedding song is given its title because it is excellent, and that is why it alone is deservedly called “The Song of Songs,” just as he in whose honor it is sung is alone called “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (1 Tm 6:15).

     [1]Bernard of Clairvaux, Trans. G R Evans in Classics of Western Spirituality, (Paulist Press NY, 1987) pp. 212-213.


November 26
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