Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Beautiful prayers

After I'm done with the song of songs I'll be doing a series of posts on prayers. I'm going to pick a few and look at the beauty of their poetry and theology.

Does anyone have any favorites from your own traditions?

I know I'll do:

The Prayer of St. Francis

And my favorites from Ignatius of Loyola:

Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more. Amen.


O my God, teach me to be generous:
to serve you as you deserve to be served;
to give without counting the cost;
to fight without fear of being wounded;
to work without seeking rest;
and to spend myself without expecting any reward,
but the knowledge that I am doing your holy will.

Hail Holy Queen will have to be there too.

I'll probably end the whole series with the Rosary.

But suggestions don't have to be Catholic. Prayers from any Christian tradition are fine.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Song of Songs chapters 4&5

The themes continue in chapters 4 and 5. There is one part of each chapter that is important. The rest of the chapters are filled with beautiful procomations of love that repeat the theological points already stated, but two parts stand out:

A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a garden locked, a fountain sealed.
Songs 4:12

This line reinforces chastity. A garden locked. A fountian sealed. Their love is sexual in the nature of how all love is...but it has not contained the sexual act yet. All of the erotic nature of the poem so far is a longing. A longing in physical and spiritual terms. It is not a dirty or unclean longing because it moves toward ultimate union and fidelity as its' goal.


I slept, but my heart was awake. Hark! my beloved is knocking. "Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one; for my head is wet with dew, my locks with the drops of the night." I had put off my garment, how could I put it on? I had bathed my feet, how could I soil them?

My beloved put his hand to the latch, and my heart was thrilled within me.
I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, upon the handles of the bolt. I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned and gone. My soul failed me when he spoke. I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer.

The watchmen found me, as they went about in the city; they beat me, they wounded me, they took away my mantle, those watchmen of the walls.
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, that you tell him I am sick with love.

What is your beloved more than another beloved, O fairest among women? What is your beloved more than another beloved, that you thus adjure us?

Songs 5:2-9

He comes to the door. But she is naked and can not open it. She is ashamed and does not want to be improper. It echos, directly:

And he said, "I heard the sound of thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." He said, "Who told you that you were naked?

Genesis 3:10-11

When she finally gets to the door, He is gone. She runs out in search of Him. We are never told that she is in any state other than the state which prevented her from opening the door. But yet, she will not lose Him.

The people ask her a question that i have looked at in the very beginning of my posts:

What is your beloved more than another beloved?

This is the only time in the Bible where this Hebrew grammatical structure is used:

“Mah (X) Mi{n} (Y)” The specific structure of “How is this different from that”

This is not a comparative structure but a differentiating structure. Although this grammatical structure is found nowhere else in the Bible, it is found somewhere else:

Mah nistannah ha-laylah ha-zeh mi{n}-kol ha-leylot
How is this night different from any other?

Used once in the Bible in the Song of Songs, but one of the most important questions ever asked. It is used at Passover to differentiate the night of deliverance from all other nights.

To me this is a beautiful parallel in the divinely inspired work to our redemption by Christ. How is the beloved different from all others? Because He brings deliverance and redemption.

We are fallen. Sin has harmed us. It has brought us shame and we don't want God to see it. We refuse to let Him in. Then we chase Him, We run after Christ who has come to save us. Why?

How is our beloved different from others? Becuase He brings redemption from Sin. Redemption of our very nature and bodies and heals all creation.

Four Christians arrested in Saudi Arabia for praying at home

Here is the Story.

Jeddah, Jun. 26, 2006 (CNA) - Two Ethiopian and two Eritrean Christians have been arrested and incarcerated in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for conducting prayers in their home.

The Compass Direct news agency reported that the religious police, called Muttawa, armed with wooden clubs, broke into a private residence in Jeddah two weeks ago and arrested the four Christians - the four remain in prison.

More than 100 Eritrean, Ethiopian and Filipino Christians were gathered in the house when the Muttawa arrested the four group leaders: Mekbeb Telahun, Fekre Gebremedhin, Dawit Uqbay and Masai Wendewesen. The few Christians in Saudi Arabia are mostly migrant workers.

The government of Saudi Arabia forbids the practice of any religion other than the fundamentalist Wahhabite version of Islam. It prohibits building places of worship, churches, or chapels. Any public expressions of faith, such as carrying a Bible, a crucifix, or rosary beads, and praying in public are forbidden.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

I grew up with an image very much in a place of honor in our home. Through good times and bad. Through suffering and Joy. The Sacred Heart of Jesus. This devotion was a favorite of my mother.

The Sacred Heart of Christ is an image that calls to mind the infinite love and mercy of our Lord. I pray that the Sacred Heart of Christ will always be important to me. I pray that His love and mercy is given to all who suffer for the love of Him, that it may comfort them in their suffering.

Catholic Culture (link)
New Advent (link)
EWTN (link)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

United States Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic Theological Consultation Holds Annual Meeting

May we know each other better.

A link to the article (link)

This group has made progress toward working with each other in recent years:

The United States Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic Consultation was established in 1978, and is sponsored jointly by the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the USCCB and the Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches in America. The Standing Conference includes representatives from the Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, Syriac, and Malankara Syrian Orthodox churches. In 1995 the Consultation published "Oriental Orthodox-Roman Catholic Interchurch Marriages and Other Pastoral Relationships," which includes pastoral guidelines for marriages involving the faithful of the two communions as well as ample documentation about the development of the ecumenical relationship between the two communions in recent decades. In 1999 it issued "Guidelines Concerning the Pastoral Care of Oriental Orthodox Students in Catholic Schools."

I fully agree with the intention:

efforts in the contemporary period to overcome the past and work together to offer a common witness. He urged greater cooperation in the future and suggested that invitations be extended to each other when major events take place, that regular meetings be held between Oriental Orthodox hierarchs and their Eastern Catholic counterparts, and that there be more public interaction among the faithful. The presentation was followed by a discussion of ways to increase this type of cooperation in the United States.

May our dialogue remain blessed.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Alaa is being set free. But first...just follow the link

Sandmonkey has the story of the first news of being set free. (link)

Update on 6/22

This is just...a word I won't use. (link)

Reports are now that he has finally been set free.

Song of Songs: Chapter 3

1: Upon my bed by night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer.
2: "I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves." I sought him, but found him not.
3: The watchmen found me, as they went about in the city. "Have you seen him whom my soul loves?"
4: Scarcely had I passed them, when I found him whom my soul loves. I held him, and would not let him go until I had brought him into my mother's house, and into the chamber of her that conceived me.
5: I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the hinds of the field, that you stir not up nor awaken love until it please.
6: What is that coming up from the wilderness, like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the fragrant powders of the merchant?
7: Behold, it is the litter of Solomon! About it are sixty mighty men of the mighty men of Israel,
8: all girt with swords and expert in war, each with his sword at his thigh, against alarms by night.
9: King Solomon made himself a palanquin from the wood of Lebanon.
10: He made its posts of silver, its back of gold, its seat of purple; it was lovingly wrought within by the daughters of Jerusalem.
11: Go forth, O daughters of Zion, and behold King Solomon, with the crown with which his mother crowned him on the day of his wedding, on the day of the gladness of his heart.

This is a fairly simple chapter. Alot of experts call this the dream that follows evening in the last chapter. The theme is searching for the lost love. There are many biblical references to searcing for God.

This is the dream where you run about looking for your love. Through the night you search. It serves to reflect our state on earth as we search for our God amid the darkness that can make us lost.

The dream leads into a vision of Solomon that bridges us into the next chapter. My favorite line from this chapter is verse 4-5. She finds her love. Takes Him home and then says again her warning from before about awaking love before it is time.

Those who speak ill of the poem because she is taking Him to her chamber often look past the next line where sexual relations at this point are ruled out.

What is the chamber? Where her mother concieved her. What is it, but our hearts. Where love. Love that leads to our children and true marriage is kindled in the heart.

She finds her love and embraces Him in her heart. He was in her heart in the last chapter, but was then gone. She moved through the night and found Him, and embraced Him again in her heart.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Love as seen by children

A group of researchers asked children to define love. The answers prove to me that children know far more than we do. The answers make my heart smile. We sometimes forget just how simple things can be in life. We forget how the most complex things are made complex just because we force them to be so. Here are the answers:

"When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn't bend over and paint her toenails anymore. So my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That's love."
Rebecca- age 8

"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different.You just know that your name is safe in their mouth."
Billy - age 4

"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other."
Karl - age 5

"Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs."
Chrissy - age 6
"Love is what makes you smile when you're tired."
Terri - age 4

"Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is OK."
Danny - age 7

"Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and you talk more.
My Mommy and Daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss"
Emily - age 8

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."
Bobby - age 7 (Wow!)

"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,"
Nikka - age 6

"Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it everyday."
Noelle - age 7

"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate,"
Nikka - age 6

"Love is like a little old woman and a little old man who are still friends even after they know each other so well."
Tommy - age 6

"During my piano recital, I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling.
He was the only one doing that. I wasn't scared anymore."
Cindy - age 8

"My mommy loves me more than anybody .
You don't see anyone else kissing me to sleep at night."
Clare - age 6

"Love is when Mommy gives Daddy the best piece of chicken."
Elaine-age 5

"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Robert Redford."
Chris - age 7

"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day."
Mary Ann - age 4
"I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones."
Lauren - age 4

"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you." (what an image)
Karen - age 7

"Love is when Mommy sees Daddy on the toilet and she doesn't think it's gross"
Mark - age 6

"You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget."
Jessica - age 8

And the final one --Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once talked about a contest he was asked to judge.

The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child.
The winner was a four year old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman who had recently lost his wife.

Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman's yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.

When his Mother asked what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy said,
"Nothing, I just helped him cry"

Blessed are the children.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Cartoon Pigs of the Apocalypse: Turkey Bans Piglet

I do not go in for bashing other countries, but this is just stupid. A country that can not own up to a genocide inflicted on the Armenian people...but they can take the time to ban a cartoon pig.

The story is over at Sandmonkey (link).

The British did it and now in Turkey.

So let's get the run down here for Turkey in the past year (a short and by no means exhaustive list):

The Continued Denial of the Armenian Genocide (link) (link)

Fr. Santoro Murdered (link)

A cover up in Fr Andrea Santoro’s murder (link)

Turkish Authorities Ignoring the Crime (link)

A priest is beaten in Izmir, to the cries of “we will kill you all” (link)

When the children of the Black Sea are taught to hate priests (link)

Catch a killer? Nope.
Stop the beatings of Christians? Nope
Recognize History? Nope
Allow people to worship as they choose? Nope.

Hey that a cartoon Pig? GET IT!!!

And I thought Piglet lost his way alot.

Fathers day and Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Toady is father's day. I offer a prayer to St. Joseph for the protection and guidance of all fathers. And I wish my father-in-law a happy and blessed day. In all honesty, I think he is a great father. And I think my mother-in-law is a great mother. My wife agrees.

At church yesterday it struck me that since father's day falls on the feast of the body and blood of Christ...just how special it is to think that on this day we see a gift from our divine Father that is beyond compare.

The Body and Blood of Christ. Offered freely to us.

It is today, another call to wonder. It is another call to humility. It is another proof of the love of God.

The feast of the greatest gift of love, falls on a day to honor our fathers. And as always, the Lord says to us..."Love Me. I will always love you. I will always be faithful. No matter what you give to Me, I give my whole self to you."

The model of fatherhood. The loving Lord. And when fatherhood is done right, this comes out. When we look at parents and say, "They are great parents." It is this model they reflect. They reflect it to each other. And they reflect it to their children.

I say again. My in-laws are great parents.

May the Lord bless and keep them.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Week of Prayer for North Korea June 19-25

There is a post on this over at Qvo Vadis (link).

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Song of Songs: Chapter 2

1: I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.
2: As a lily among brambles, so is my love among maidens.

The woman compares herself to a flower, and the man exalts her above all the other flowers in the field. It brings to mind:

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin;
yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?
Matthew 6: 28-30

There is a double connection with the attribution of the Song to Solomon. The lovers see each other beyond comparisons although their human language must speak in them. They see each other as God sees them. Truly, to love is to see another through God’s eyes.

3: As an apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
4: He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.
5: Sustain me with raisins, refresh me with apples; for I am sick with love.

His cover over me is love. In Ruth chapter 3, Boaz covers Ruth with his mantle as a sign of betrothal. Love covers. It protects…it perfects. It redeems the Body in Christ.

Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love covers a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:8

The verse is another sign that these are not random lovers. There are people joined in the true nuptial mystery of Sacramental union. There is the kissing imagery directly before this verse as yet another sign of the simple seal of marriage and love.

6: O that his left hand were under my head, and that his right hand embraced me!

An embrace. We are safe in the arm of our love. We are safe in the arms of our God. These simple things, seen by some as erotic or out of place are the basic parts of our nature. This is the nature that God made for us. We all have the need to be embraced in love. It is the want and the misunderstanding of true love that leads so many people astray. We search in our lives for that perfect love. All the time it is there in God. In Christ. And it is reflected in the union of marriage.

7: I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the hinds of the field, that you stir not up nor awaken love until it please.

True love verses false. Lust verses love. We grasp at the gifts God freely gives. And that grasping is a rejection of the love of God. We snatch to pull love from His hands when a perfect love is being given. And our grasp, our impatient pull can only gain an imperfect love. We rush towards sexuality and satisfaction when a true redemption of the body lies in the sacramental union of marriage and the sacrifice of Christ. But if but we wait for the gift. If we work with our Lord to master lust with love we receive perfection. Master desire with the faith that God will provide, we will receive perfection. This poem, so often called erotic and out of place, has at it’s heart the message of the mastery of desire.

8: The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills.
9: My beloved is like a gazelle, or a young stag. Behold, there he stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice.

God created with a word. In midrashic thought this is one of the most basic and beautiful concepts. It is the Word of God that creates everything. John tells us that the Word is made flesh. The voice of the beloved is the word of God made flesh. It is Christ Himself.

10: My beloved speaks and says to me: "Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away;
11: for lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
12: The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
13: The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

This is Redemption. Our winter is over and our exile past. All that is past is prologue as the bard says. The beloved calls out and says, “Pain is past. Suffering is past. I have been out here in it so I could announce to you when it was safe. Now is the redemption. Come and take my hand.”

14: O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff, let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is comely.

And we wish to see God. We wish to know Him. And He us. He already knows us, but He desires that we give ourselves freely to Him. And in this verse we rush to Him, calling our the beauty of our Lord and savior.

15: Catch us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom."

But we must be wary. Even though redemption is here we can be lax and allow for this offer to be spoiled for us. We must be aware of sin. Again, this poem often called uninhibited sexuality is talking about perfected sexuality. It tells us to follow the voice and path of God’s desire for us.

16: My beloved is mine and I am his, he pastures his flock among the lilies.
17: Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle, or a young stag upon rugged mountains.

Shadows dissolve with daybreak. Redemption is the breaking of day. Christ is with us through the night. The Lord God carries us in safety. And He is with us always, until the end of time.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Updates might be slow for the next couple days. I have a little flu. I'm almost ready with the second chapter of the song of songs.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Babies Aborted because they have club feet

I am pro-life. I don't normally post on abortion here, but this article just blew me away.

Here is the (link).

Some background. In England babies can be aborted if they have "serious medical conditions" This is being applied very broadly. At this point a baby can be aborted even if the child has an easily correctable medical condition. Club feet and cleft pallet included. From the article:

MORE than 20 babies have been aborted in advanced pregnancy because scans showed that they had club feet, a deformity readily corrected by surgery or physiotherapy.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics covering the years from 1996 to 2004, a further four babies were aborted because they had webbed fingers or extra digits, which are also corrected by simple surgery. All the terminations took place late in pregnancy, after 20 weeks.


News of the terminations has reignited the debate over how scanning and gene technology may enable the creation of “designer babies”. In 2002 it emerged that a baby had been aborted late — at 28 weeks — after scans found that it had a cleft palate, another readily corrected condition.

Some parents, doctors and charities are increasingly worried by what they see as a tendency to widen the definition of “serious handicap”. The handicap provision, which does not exist in most other countries, permits abortions to be carried out until birth. It was intended to save women from the trauma of giving birth to babies likely to die in infancy.

But, club foot? It can be fixed. The value of an entire life is being based on a condition that can be fixed. Also stated:

Club foot is one of the most common birth defects in Britain. About one in 1,000 babies is affected, meaning that 600 to 700 infants are born with the condition every year. It results in the feet pointing downwards and inwards, and in severe cases can cause foot deformity and a limp.

However, it is relatively easy to correct and in recent years techniques of splints, plaster casts and boots to set the foot into the correct position have replaced the need for surgery.Club foot is occasionally connected with serious but rare chromosomal defects, although specialists point out that these can also be screened out before birth with additional tests.

Despite the ease with which it can be treated, the perception that club foot is a serious birth defect has remained among some parents and doctors.

Not all parents are buying it:

“It was strongly suggested that we consider abortion after they found our baby had a club foot,” said David Wildgrove, 41, a computer programmer from Sheffield, whose son Alexander was born in 1996. “I was appalled. We resisted, the problem was treated and he now runs around and plays football with everyone else.”

Pippa Spriggs from Cambridge, whose son Isaac will celebrate his second birthday in July, was also dismayed when a scan halfway through the pregnancy revealed that her baby had the defect.

But not all agree:

Others take a different view and decide not to accept the risk of an imperfect baby. Sue Banton, who founded the group Steps for parents of children with foot disorders, was troubled that a home counties couple last year decided to terminate their baby, despite counselling to reassure them it would have a worthwhile life even with a section of foot missing.

“We gave them other families to talk to, but they just didn’t want to know. The baby was aborted just before the 25th week,” she said.

“It is terrible. I know lots of perfectly nice people with this condition, and you just can’t imagine them not being here.”

One doctor in the north of England who did not want to be named, said a recent case in his hospital had involved the discovery of a hand missing from a foetus scanned at 20 weeks. “The father did not want the pregnancy to proceed because of his perception that the child would not be able to do all the usual things like sport,” said the doctor.

You can't throw a football or play it's not worth you living. Your worth is determined by the physical, nothing else. This isn't about serious conditions. This does not threaten quality of life. This is about the perception of perfection.

That those who have difficulty are somehow less than able to be called human.

May our prayers be with all of the people who are not being given the accurate information in these cases. May they choose life and use the wonderous advances in medicine to have these children and then get the problem treated so they can be healthy and alive. May their value be judged on the fact that they simply and beautifully...just are themselves.

By the way, Kristi Yamaguchi the figure skater who won an Olympic gold medal in 1992 was born with club foot. So were football players Troy Aikman and Charles Woodson. Mia Hamm the soccer star was as well.

The US House drops the ball and refuses to cut aid to Mubarak

Here is the article (link) and coverage from Sandmonkey (link).

Ashamed is the only word that comes to mind. The vote was 225-198. I am ashamed of our representatives. This is not aid that would have helped people, this is military aid. With quotes like:

But opponents said it would have gone to far by unfairly punishing an important ally.


Rep. Jim Kolbe, the Arizona Republican who chairs the
Appropriations foreign aid subcommittee, called Egypt a
strategic partner and said "kicking sand" in its face "is not
the right move."

You can not suport freedom one way and deny it in another. And this was a bi-partisan bill. It would have moved 50 million of the 100 million cut to support aids and help in Darfur. SO the headline:

House cuts aid for Darfur and AIDS in favor of military aid to dictatorship.

Here is how they voted (link).

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Song of Songs: Chapter 1

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

This is a classic method of giving authorship to a famous person. Scholars agree that this does not make the poem about Solomon or by him.

2: O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth! For your love is better than wine,
3: your anointing oils are fragrant, your name is oil poured out; therefore the maidens love you.

Take a moment to think about a simple kiss. The kiss is in all cultures a seal. It is a seal of trust and union. This is going to be a strange comparison in a biblical commentary, but if people remember the movie Pretty Woman there is a connection. In the movie the prostitute will not kiss people because it is too personal. Anything else, but not a kiss. A simple kiss is more intimate than anything else.

You may kiss the bride. It is a seal of the sacramental marriage. It is A union of two people where the breath of life enters and exits the body. There is nothing simple about a kiss. In many liturgies there is a kiss of peace. At the sign of peace in church my wife and I kiss each other. The poem does not begin with lurid description. The kiss is not a carnal exchange, but a seal. The desire for a kiss is a sign to the reader that this is love.

Your name is oil poured out. Christ, the anointed one.

4: Draw me after you, let us make haste. The king has brought me into his chambers. We will exult and rejoice in you; we will extol your love more than wine; rightly do they love you.

Draw me after you. As Christ says we will be drawn to Him by the Father. We will rejoice in our savior because rightly do we love Him.

5: I am very dark, but comely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon.
6: Do not gaze at me because I am swarthy, because the sun has scorched me. My mother's sons were angry with me, they made me keeper of the vineyards; but, my own vineyard I have not kept!

The sections that mention the dark skin of the woman is not an indication of race. Almost all scholars agree that the dark skin is indicates that the woman labors outside. Pale skin is a sign of wealth and station because you did not have to work out in the sun. Dark skin shows that you engage in manual labor. The request in this verse is to look past the surface. Look at the true person of your love and not their station in life.

Another view is that the bride (in the role of God's people) is dark because of sin. But God looks past our flaws. He frees us from sin. We are sinner, but beautiful to God, who lifts us out of sin.

For those curious the Kedar region was known for making their tent from black goat hair, hence the comparison to the tents of Kedar.

7: Tell me, you whom my soul loves, where you pasture your flock, where you make it lie down at noon; for why should I be like one who wanders beside the flocks of your companions?

The shepherd, it is an image that is never far away from the Christian heart (PS 23:1, Jn 1:39). This is the search for Christ. Tell me O’ Lord where to find you and I will follow. Why should I wander by the flocks of others my Christ when I am yours. It is the cry of faithfulness in marriage. She wants no other. She does not want the union others have, but the one meant for her and her beloved.

A line of utmost beauty: “Tell me you whom my soul loves…”

The love of my soul. This is not a love only of the flesh, based in immediate desire. This is the love at the core of a person. This is an eternal love. It is God’s eternal love for his people. It is the love of sacramental marriage that forsakes all others and joins two into one.

8: If you do not know, O fairest among women, follow in the tracks of the flock, and pasture your kids beside the shepherds' tents.

This interplay between the shepherd and his love is at heart a reminder of Jacob and Rachel. These verses reach deep into the history of Israel. Genesis Chapter 29 tells the story of Jacob serving Laban for the hand of Rachel. The imagery of the lover being a shepherd reverses the roles. Israel becomes Rachel, searching for the divine shepherd and their shared love.

One of the most simple and beautiful lines of scripture comes from this story.

So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.
Genesis 29:20

9: I compare you, my love, to a mare of Pharaoh's chariots.
10: Your cheeks are comely with ornaments, your neck with strings of jewels.
11: We will make you ornaments of gold, studded with silver.

In the culture of ancient Israel the bride was adorned with jewels. Even the poor found a way to adorn a bride in finery. But here, after the desire to look past the obvious toward the soul, the bride is the jewel. This thought, and the previous plea of the woman to look past the surface is echoed in 1 Peter 3-4:

Let not yours be the outward adorning with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of fine clothing, but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.

Here, in the perfection of union, there is the surface and the soul as one. There is no difference. The body and the soul are in union with each other like the glorified body of the Risen Christ. The Body is sanctified.

12: While the king was on his couch, my nard gave forth its fragrance.
13: My beloved is to me a bag of myrrh, that lies between my breasts.
14: My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of Enge'di.

Myrrh releases it’s scent most efficiently when heat is applied. Many who read the poem pause here. A holy book has mentioned breasts. Yes. Yes it has: Breasts that nurse a child, Breasts that reside above the area of the heart. Her lover is placed above her heart and resides there.

15: Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves.
16: Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly lovely. Our couch is green;
17: the beams of our house are cedar, our rafters are pine

At the end of chapter one, the lovers, live in nature. It is their home. It is a garden, a new garden like the one we had in the beginning. Eden is restored by this love, by the union of Christ and His people. It is restored by the union of sacramental marriage. And the last verses of chapter one hold the echo:

Behold you are beautiful my beloved, truly lovely.


The first chapter introduces us to the man and the woman. We see their love for each other in it’s purity. We see their total desire for each other as a call to mutual unity. There is the point to look past the outside to the inner self and the Love of the soul. There is the redemption of the body and the unity of the body and soul in the Risen Lord.

This chapter is the marriage proposal. It holds the promise of Christ and the deep history of Israel. Nature in the chapter, so corrupted by sin, is restored.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Song of Songs: Dealing with the main objections first

There are, and have been, two main objections to the Song of Songs. They are:

1. It is pornograpy and does not belong in the Bible
2. The woman is a harlot in her ways and speech

To deal with point one:

It is pornography and does not belong in the Bible

This requires a look at the definition of pornography.

The definition is: Sexually explicit pictures, writing, or other material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal.

So, we deal here with primary purpose. The primary purpose of the Song of Songs is to extol the virtues of physical love in the union of sacramental marraige and to reflect, in a divnely inspired work the love of God for his people.

Proving this will be the main purpose of the posts over the next weeks. So I'll be returning to this point along the way and in my final summation at the end of my series of posts.

The woman is a harlot in her ways and speech

This charge has been made by people in the middle ages, the victorian era and Muslim detractors. But one must remember that the Song of Songs reflects the perfect state. it reflects the perfection of the union of man and woman in the love of marriage and the perfect state of God's love for His people.

First, let us view the imperfect state. This state can be summed up in the line from Genesis:

yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.
Genesis 3:16

Contrast with the Song of Songs:

I am my beloved's, and his desire is for me
Songs 7:10

Something happens in this book. It is best described by Nicolas Ayo in Sacred Marriage: The Wisdom of The Song of Song:

The issue is not a new advantage of women at the expense of men, or the old advantage of men at the expense of women, but rather a loving dance together where either may lead or either may follow, where none is pushed or anyone dragged

he adds:

Surley this is the love song God intended for humankind from the beginning. Only in the trinitarian life of the one God is there complete interpersonal relationship, while each person remains an intergal idenity. But human beings were made in the image of God.

This is the redemption of humanity as total persons. Our bodies as well as our souls. In the Trinity the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are One. Yet they maintain their individual natures. It is the great mystery of God's nature and marriage reflects it.

A man and a woman remain themselves, but are totally one. They have children who join as one family, but still remain themselves. Marraige and family is, in the redemption by Christ, a reflection of the most perfect union of God.

This woman is not a harlot. A harlot is a sinful woman or a prostitute. The woman in the Song of Songs does not act above her station or out of place. In the redemption of the body and the perfection of love, the curse set upon Eve is gone. The mutual unity of the sexes is restored. Man and woman are free again. The death and decay of the world caused by sin has be torn away by Christ.

Our physical natures are here for a reason. Things are out of place or put to sinful use when they do not glorify God. But the man and woman in the Song of Songs, as the full look at the book will show, are indeed in union for the Glory of the Most High. It can remind us of the line from Acts of the Apostles:

And the voice came to him again a second time, "What God has cleansed, you must not call common
Acts 10:15

These two objections will persist, and one post is not enough to deal with them. The purpose of this post is to place the chapter by chapter analysis in the proper light.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Song of Songs

Several recent events have led me to do some deeper reading and research on the Song of Songs. The charge that the book has a sexual nature that is out of place in the realm of the holy is an old one. It has been leveled, at times, by both Christians and the detractors of Christianity. Some of my more humorous of late has been Victorian bible scholars and their attempts to address the books theology while not addressing it’s sexuality.

Over the next month or so, I’ll be doing a chapter by chapter analysis of the Song of Songs. To be sure, the most vocal recent critical opponents of the Song of Songs are those of the Muslim faith. This point is reflective of the larger difference between the two faiths: The redemption of the body as a Christian principle.

The Song of Songs has been seen in many lights throughout it’s history:

1. A literary work

2. A poem, divinely inspired, that speaks of God’s love for Israel

3. A poem, divinely inspired, that speaks of God’s love for His Church

4. A historical work embellished in poetry as a tribute to Solomon and the queen of Sheba

5. A divinely inspired work that delves into the nature and beauty of the Sacrament of Marriage

6. A Marian foreshadowing

7. (Tied to #5) A work, divinely inspired, that deals with the redemption of the physical form.

I’ll be hitting on all of these points, but it is a combination of 2,3,5 and 7 that will dominate my analysis. In short: The Song of Songs speaks of God’s love for His people and leads us to an understanding of our physical natures redeemed by Christ and given the ultimate holy purpose of a loving marriage. Sexual imagery is not out of place because our physical natures are not base or sinful when oriented toward God’s glory in the sacrament of marriage.

Before I start doing the chapters, I'd like to take a look at just how much depth this book has. I have found several interesting points that reveal the true beauty of the work. One point is that in Songs 5:9 there is the phrase:

What is your beloved more than another beloved?

This is the only time in the Bible where this Hebrew grammatical structure is used:

“Mah (X) Mi{n} (Y)” The specific structure of “How is this different from that”

This is not a comparative structure but a differentiating structure. Although this grammatical structure is found nowhere else in the Bible, it is found somewhere else:

Mah nistannah ha-laylah ha-zeh mi{n}-kol ha-leylot
How is this night different from any other?

Used once in the Bible in the Song of Songs, but one of the most important questions ever asked. It is used at Passover to differentiate the night of deliverance from all other nights.

To me this is a beautiful parallel in the divinely inspired work to our redemption by Christ. How is the beloved different from all others? Because He brings deliverance and redemption.

Works I will be using (so far):

The Bible
The Revised Standard Catholic Edition

Love's fugue : translation and commentary on 'The finest song of all'
Xavier McMonagle

The Theology of the Body
John Paul II

The Song of Songs : a new translation with an introduction and commentary
Ariel Bloch and Chana Bloch; afterword by Robert Alter

The Cantata of Love: A Verse by Verse Reading of the Song of Songs
Blaise Arminjon, S.J.

Sacred marriage : the wisdom of the Song of songs
Nicholas Ayo

Feast of love : Pope John Paul II on human intimacy
Mary G. Durkin

Shir Hashirim : The "Songs of songs," as echoed in its Midrash. (An insight into the traditional conception of Jewish nationhood)
Yitzhak Broch

Pentecost: Come Holy Spirit

May the Holy Spirit lead us all to unity as One Body in Christ. May the Spirit guide our words and lead us to a deeper love for one another.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Might not update until Sunday

My twin sister is coming in this weekend. I have not seen her in about a year, so I doubt I'll be posting until Sunday. So in honor of her a picture or two. Left half of the image that is my twin sister, then my brother Bob (Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord) and I'm poking my head over in the back. In the right half of the image my brother-in-law is on the left. My nieces are in the front. My sister is on the far right and My lovely wife and I are in the middle.

Some well spoken points at the Coptic protest of the King Tut exhibit

The link is here (link).

Supporters of the Coptic rights movement protested outside the opening of the "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs" exhibit at the Field Museum of Natural History last week.

some of the Copts there articulated their points simply and (in my opinion) very well:

"Now is the time for the government to stop dividing the Muslims from the Copts," said Atef Mackar, a Copt from Downers Grove.

"We have no problem with Islam or Muslims," he said. "We have a problem with the system and how the system helps fuel hatred."


"Egypt is the second-largest recipient of U.S. aid," Halim said. "We don’t want the aid to stop," he said. "But we want it to be contingent on respecting human rights in the Middle East and especially in Egypt."


"You can count churches on your hands," he said. "Twenty weddings are held in one night. People have no place to pray or to be buried."

These are three very straight forward points:

1. Stop the system that promotes division
(a system that has actively limits copts in the fields of law, education, medicine and government jobs)

2. Tie US aid to human rights

3. Let us build some more churches

I pray that this simple, but necessary and basic message of human dignity is heard.