Prayer for the sick

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Today the Byzantine Church venerates Saint Sabbas (+532), "the Archimandrite of all the hermits of Palestine."

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Song of Songs 3, 1-5

On my bed at night I sought the man who is my sweetheart: I sought but could not find him!

So I shall get up and go through the city; in the streets and in the squares, I shall seek my sweetheart. I sought but could not find him!

I came upon the watchmen -- those who go on their rounds in the city: 'Have you seen my sweetheart?'

Barely had I passed them when I found my sweetheart. I caught him, would not let him go, not till I had brought him to my mother's house, to the room where she conceived me!

LOVER: I charge you, daughters of Jerusalem, by gazelles and wild does, do not rouse, do not wake my beloved before she pleases.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

We now find ourselves at the fourth poem of the Song of Songs. An outside voice, perhaps from the chorus, sings a nuptial song that describes the parade of the "litter of Solomon." As they advance towards Jerusalem, a column of smoke, perfumes of myrrh and frankincense reveal their way. This image immediately reminds us of Exodus and of the 40 years in which the Lord raised up his people so that they recognized him as their liberator. It was a time of mutual understanding between the Lord and his people. The Scripture speaks of the column of fire that at night illuminated the way and of the cloud during the day that shielded the people of Israel from the enemy. The outside voice invites the reader to consider Solomon’s parade more closely by urging, "Look, it is the litter of Solomon!" It then highlights the extraordinary legion of men, "[a]round it are sixty mighty men of the mighty men of Israel." As the column of smoke alludes to Exodus, the "litter" alludes to the Temple, the place of the Lord’s presence. For Christians, the new Solomon is Jesus and the new temple is the Church, the community of believers. The author reminds us that every attention was given to building the "litter of Solomon": that "wood from Lebanon" was used, as well as silver and gold with purple and precious embroidery; the cantor also emphasizes that its "interior was inlaid with love." The description can be applied to the Church; that is, the fruit of God’s love that he wove with his own hands. How can we not be amazed by this embroidery of love? We are invited to look with wonder at God’s embroidery which is the Church, an embroidery for his Son. We do not find ourselves before a work made by human hands, but before a mystery that opens us up to God himself. The words of the Song urge us to leave behind a mundane and petty mindset and move beyond human standards so as to see the mystery that is the Church. She can be contemplated only in relationship with her groom, "Daughters of Jerusalem, come out. Look, O daughters of Zion, at King Solomon...on the day of his wedding, on the day of the gladness of his heart." Only by having the eyes and the heart of Jesus is it possible to understand, or at least to intuit the treasure of love that the Church is to Jesus. Jesus is the first "lover" of the Church; he gave up his life for her even unto death on the cross. He crowned her with glory, "Look, O daughters of Zion, at King Solomon, at the crown with which his mother crowned him." For us, the "litter of Solomon" is the community of believers and the precious place where we can find refreshment, rest and comfort.