Sunday Vigil

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Memory of Saint Francis Xavier, a sixteenth-century Jesuit missionary in India and Japan.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Song of Songs 2, 8-17

BELOVED: I hear my love. See how he comes leaping on the mountains, bounding over the hills.

My love is like a gazelle, like a young stag. See where he stands behind our wall. He looks in at the window, he peers through the opening.

My love lifts up his voice, he says to me, 'Come then, my beloved, my lovely one, come.

For see, winter is past, the rains are over and gone.

'Flowers are appearing on the earth. The season of glad songs has come, the cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land.

The fig tree is forming its first figs and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance. Come then, my beloved, my lovely one, come.

'My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock, in the coverts of the cliff, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.'

Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that make havoc of the vineyards, for our vineyards are in fruit.

My love is mine and I am his. He pastures his flock among the lilies.

Before the day-breeze rises, before the shadows flee, return! Be, my love, like a gazelle, like a young stag, on the mountains of Bether.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock" (Rev. 3:20) says the Lord to the Church of Laodicea in the book of Revelation. This affirmation of the Lord is a passage that we can begin with as we reflect on today’s passage from the Song of Songs. This scene is very different from the one preceding it for now it is the woman who speaks. She thinks of her beloved who has climbed mountains to reach the city where she lives. He draws near to the house of her parents, where she lives and gazes at her through the windows and curtains. From there, he entreats her to come outside and take in the beauty of spring: Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away..." So much does her lover desire her that he repeats his entreaties twice to her. The passage highlights how in spring, nature flourishes. Often in the Song of Songs, lovers go outside or they imagine doing so: it’s as if they go into the Garden of Eden that is filled with only beautiful, fruitful and perfumed flora and inhabited by harmless animals, a place where just after the rain, flowers open and blossom.
The woman abandons her shyness like a dove leaving its nest in the clefts of a rock. Her lover desires to see her face and hear her voice. These images describe God’s desire for us. This time, it is he who takes the initiative and pursues Israel. He stops outside of the door like a young man in love imploring his beloved to come out and meet him. The Targum paraphrases the passage as: "When those of the House of Israel dwelt in Egypt, their laments reached Heaven...And the Lord seized the day fixed for the merits of the Patriarchs who are similar to mountains...and he looked through the windows, peeking through the shutters and sees the blood of the sacrifice of the Passion and he had pity on us...and when it was morning, he said to me: ‘Rise up, assembly of Jerusalem, my delight...and distance yourself from the slavery of the Egyptians.’ Origen refers the scene to Christ Risen from the dead and says: "Rise up, my dove because look, winter has passed...Resurrected from the dead I have crushed the storm and brought back peace." Love is not free of risk and danger. The text implores that the enemy be caught, "Catch the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards for the vineyards are in blossom." The enemy is insidious (the little foxes) and comes to destroy the fruit of love (the vineyards in blossom). The love between them will not allow weakness or injury. "My beloved is mine and I am his." These words echo the formula of the Alliance found throughout the Old Testament "I will be their God and they will be my people." This connection on Earth already anticipates the one in Heaven. At the end of the day, despite the breadth of the breeze and the lengthening shadows, the woman asks her lover to come back and imagines him as quick and light as a gazelle or fawn. It’s an image that the prophet Isaiah used: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation" (Is 52:7). It’s the expectation that love still grows. Never, in fact do we tire of loving.