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The Everyday Prayer

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

Memory of Lazarus of Bethany. Prayer for all those who are gravely ill and for the dying. Memory of those who have died of AIDS.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Song of Songs 8, 5-7

Who is this coming up from the desert leaning on her lover? I awakened you under the apple tree, where your mother conceived you, where she who bore you conceived you.

BELOVED: Set me like a seal on your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is strong as Death, passion as relentless as Sheol. The flash of it is a flash of fire, a flame of Yahweh himself.

Love no flood can quench, no torrents drown. Were a man to offer all his family wealth to buy love, contempt is all that he would gain.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If you believe, you will see the glory of God,
thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

We are now at the end of the Song. A woman enters the scene, and the chorus asks, "Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?" This theme, which has already been touched on (3:6-11), evokes the experience of the people of Israel, sustained by the Lord through forty years of wandering in the desert. This story also symbolizes the journey of the pilgrim Church on earth, which is sometimes like a desert, empty of love, towards God’s Heaven. More than a series of declarations to believe, biblical faith means recognizing that the Lord upholds us with his arms. Yes, we need to hold fast to the strong arms of God. Faith means recognizing the strength of God’s love, which sustains us and saves us. The prince of this world pushes men and women in the opposite direction, to let go of God’s arms and walk on their own, that is, to trust only in themselves. But when we try to become independent from God we become slaves of ourselves or of merciless masters. And so the world grows wicked. On the contrary, depending on God dismantles human pride and strengthens the bonds of love between the children of the Church, which is loved by God. The beloved man tells the woman that he woke her up under the apple tree, which is a symbol of the groom himself. It is there, where her mother gave birth to her, that she experiences a new birth, a new life. The woman makes a daring request of her lover: she asks to be his seal, the indelible sign of irrevocable belonging: "Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm." She asks her beloved to take her as the guarantee of his very identity, that is, to become an essential part of his identity. This is an incredibly bold request, if we think that the lover is the Lord. It is as if we asked the Lord to be recognized as such by other people through the seal of the Church, that is, as the lover of the Church. It seems unimaginable. It means claiming to be the justification for God’s existence. And yet that is exactly how it is. In a certain sense, the Lord has made his ability to be recognized dependent on the Church’s testimony. This has dramatic consequences. If there are many people who do not believe in the Lord, or who abandon him, is this not, at least in part, the result of our poor testimony? Does faded and unkempt love not fade the seal on the Lord’s arm? Nonetheless, the love that unites these two lovers (the Lord and the Church) and makes of them "one flesh" is the culmination of history, the pinnacle of the universe. Such love is compared to the strength of death: "for love is strong as death." This means that love can even resist death. But only true love. The greatest achievement of this love is to have saved the Son of God from death: the worlds of the Song are fulfilled in the resurrection. We can even say more clearly that "love is stronger than death." Nothing can destroy love; indeed, its flames destroy every obstacle: "Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame." There is no water that can quench love: "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it." Love has no price and cannot be bought: "If one offered for love all the wealth of one’s house, it would be utterly scorned." Love is God himself. And anyone who welcomes love and lets him or herself be overwhelmed by love has God in his or her heart.

Sunday Vigil

Calendar of the week
Sunday, 22 October
Liturgy of the Sunday
Monday, 23 October
Memory of the Poor
Tuesday, 24 October
Memory of the Mother of the Lord
Wednesday, 25 October
Memory of the Saints and the Prophets
Thursday, 26 October
Memory of the Church
Friday, 27 October
Memory of Jesus crucified
Saturday, 28 October
Memory of the Apostles
Sunday, 29 October
Liturgy of the Sunday