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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Memory of Saint Ambrose (+ 397), bishop of Milan. Pastor of his people, he remained strong in the face of the emperor’s arrogance.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Song of Songs 4, 1-7

LOVER: How beautiful you are, my beloved, how beautiful you are! Your eyes are doves, behind your veil; your hair is like a flock of goats surging down Mount Gilead.

Your teeth, a flock of sheep to be shorn when they come up from the washing. Each one has its twin, not one unpaired with another.

Your lips are a scarlet thread and your words enchanting. Your cheeks, behind your veil, are halves of pomegranate.

Your neck is the Tower of David built on layers, hung round with a thousand bucklers, and each the shield of a hero.

Your two breasts are two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that feed among the lilies.

Before the day-breeze rises, before the shadows flee, I shall go to the mountain of myrrh, to the hill of frankincense.

You are wholly beautiful, my beloved, and without a blemish.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

"Come with me from Lebanon, my bride; come with me from Lebanon." This is the invitation the Lord makes to Israel, calling her to depart from the peaks of Lebanon, Amana, Senir and Hermon and join him as a queen for her groom. These words echo those of Jeremiah when he speaks of God bringing his people back home from the North and from slavery (Jer 31:8). The Psalmist sings: "therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon"(Ps 42:6). In the Song of Songs the groom says: "You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride, you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace." The Targum comments: "On the table of my heart is my love engraved for you, my sister, Assembly of Israel who are like a chaste wife. On the table of my heart is engraved my love for the smallest among you...how beautiful are your loved ones to me, my sister! Assembly of Israel, how you are like a chaste bride! How good are your loved ones to me, and how I prefer them over the seventy nations." Why does such a love ravish the heart? There is no list of riches, possessions, kingdoms or armies of the beloved that can explain or make sense of such a love. The lover simply describes the body of his beloved woman. It’s a concrete description reserved just for her, as if he wanted to emphasize the personal nature of his love without reference to any underlying agendas. The text describes the bride as a "paradise" or luxurious garden.
When the bride and groom meet, it is paradise: the full attainment of happiness. The garden is watered by a fountain, breezy and inhabited by fruitful, aromatic trees; most importantly, it is a "locked" garden, in which no one else can enter. This is the exclusivity of God’s love for his people, "I am a jealous God," says God several times in Scripture. This exclusivity renders the garden verdant and fertile, "a garden fountain, a well of living water, and flowing streams from Lebanon." A rabbinic commentator sees here an allusion to the waters that spring forth from the altar of the temple sometimes referred to as "Lebanon." The Targum writes: the living waters "spring forth from Lebanon to water Israel’s land: indeed, the sons of Israel study the precepts of the Law that are like living waters and from the temple, built in Jerusalem and called Lebanon [the Law] is poured water of libation." From our hearts will come forth feelings of love and from our lips will come words like those of the beloved woman who sings, "Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden that its fragrance may be wafted abroad. Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits." This wind of the "spirit" of the Lord is given to us and makes us like fertile land so that we can bear and give back to the Lord the fruit of peace and love and render "his" garden beautiful.

Memory of the Saints and the Prophets