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The Everyday Prayer

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

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Song of Songs 6, 1-3

CHORUS: Where did your lover go, O loveliest of women? Which way did your lover turn so that we can help you seek him?

BELOVED: My love went down to his garden, to the beds of spices, to pasture his flock on the grass and gather lilies.

I belong to my love, and my love to me. He pastures his flock among the lilies.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The lover has ended her love song, and the chorus asks, "Where has your beloved gone...that we may seek him with you?" She quickly responds: he is with her; he has come to her and is now going down to "his" garden, that is, to the arms of his beloved. The garden, as we have seen, is a symbol of the beloved woman. The long search is over. The author does not describe how the encounter took place; it is enough for him to allude to the scene of their embrace. The beloved man goes down "to pasture his flock in the gardens, and to gather lilies," that is, to nourish himself with love and its fruits. This represents the communion of life, the communion of goals, passions, and destinies, which is established between the Groom and the Bride, between the Lord and Israel, between Jesus and the Church. This is the meaning of this statement: "I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine." Notwithstanding the possible ambiguity inherent in the question the "daughters of Jerusalem" ask at the beginning of the passage, the relationship is clearly unique. This is the second time in the Song that the beloved claims as her own the promise that the Lord made to his people: "The Lord will be my God, and I will be his people." The prophet Jeremiah writes, "The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah...I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jer 31:31-33). Both Israel and the Church make the words of the bride their own. It is a mysterious bond that ties together these two religious traditions. What unites Israel and the Church is the exclusivity of their love for God. The Lord and Israel, Christ and the Church, are bound to one another. Neither of the two can live without the other. Gregory of Nyssa makes this comment: "The purified soul is allowed to have nothing in it but God." Neither of the two "can" live without the other. If the Lord wants to pasture his flock, he will do it among the lilies of his people, and if Judaism and the Church are to exist, they will allow the Lord, and no one else, into their pastures. Yes, both Israel and the Church can only exist in so far as they recognize and profess the uniqueness and exclusivity of their covenant with the Lord.

Memory of the Mother of the Lord