Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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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 6, 4-12

LOVER: You are fair as Tirzah, my beloved, enchanting as Jerusalem, formidable as an army!

Turn your eyes away from me, they take me by assault! Your hair is like a flock of goats surging down the slopes of Gilead.

Your teeth are like a flock of ewes as they come up from being washed. Each one has its twin, not one unpaired with another.

Your cheeks, behind your veil, are halves of pomegranate.

There are sixty queens and eighty concubines (and countless girls).

My dove is my only one, perfect and mine. She is the darling of her mother, the favourite of the one who bore her. Girls have seen her and proclaimed her blessed, queens and concubines have sung her praises,

'Who is this arising like the dawn, fair as the moon, resplendent as the sun, formidable as an army?'

I went down to the nut orchard to see the fresh shoots in the valley, to see if the vines were budding and the pomegranate trees in flower.

Before I knew . . . my desire had hurled me onto the chariots of Amminadib!


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

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

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The lover compares his beloved’s beauty to that of the great cities. Tirzah was the first capital of the Northern kingdom after the fall of Solomon’s empire, but we do not know much about it. Here it appears alongside Jerusalem. Both are beautiful: Jerusalem was and is, and presumably, so was Tirzah. It is remarkable that in all of Scripture, but especially in the New Testament, salvation is presented as a city, the heavenly Jerusalem. This is not by accident. The Bible reveals that God does not save people one by one, but by gathering them together in a people and having them live together in a city. There is an unavoidable social dimension to the Judeo-Christian faith. The personal beauty of the beloved is described in verses four to seven, but this does not eliminate her plural dimension: in her are present the entire people of Israel and the entire Church, which have so enraptured the Lord’s heart that he says, "Turn away your eyes from me, for they overwhelm me!" For God, this is an absolutely unique love. The bride is the only one among a thousand women who can satisfy the groom’s love. He is not interested in a harem full of wives and concubines like Solomon’s, because the bride alone contains within her everything that her lover hopes for and desires. She is not just the "only one" for her mother, but also for her husband. We could say there were many possible brides, but the Lord chose only one. Certainly, all nations belong to the Lord, and in truth, all were chosen for different roles, but Israel is unique in the Lord’s eyes. Only Israel is for the Lord a "treasured possession...a priestly kingdom and a holy nation" (Ex 19:5-6). In Israel, the function of priests was, on the one hand, to present the people to the Lord through sacrifices and praise, and, on the other, to ascertain the Lord’s will about concrete moral questions. Israel was chosen to be a priest among the nations - just like the Church - to gather all people around the Lord. Both Israel and the Church are tools the Lord uses to gather humanity to its fullest realization: a family of peoples gathered around the Lord. Along these lines, the Second Vatican Council affirmed that the Church should be the "sacrament of unity of the entire human race." The female chorus intervenes in verse ten and praises the beauty and strength of the woman, comparing her to the heavenly lights and an army with unfurled banners. She responds with the image of the garden as the place of intimacy between the lovers, enveloped in an eternal springtime.