Tag Archives: Song of Songs

November 2: Solitude

sjc. solitude hanging

The room is still but for the ticking clock
and like a snowfall stillness settles round,
and in come presences that needn’t knock,
familiar, homing souls, without a sound.

It isn’t always so – so calm, so quiet,
but now the gentle spirits take their ease
as afternoon melts into shadowed night
and birds seek shelter in the darkening trees.

As night advances, sky turns indigo
and slate-grey clouds in bundles fill the east.
I watch. I seem alone, but I’m with you –
my brothers, sisters summoned to the feast.

In solitude I know that we are one.
In solitude I hear the bridegroom come.


Definitely a poem for All Saints’ Tide. Thank you Sister Johanna! 

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22 July: A Morning meeting, Feast of Mary Magdalene


This picture reminds me of the Song of Songs Chapter 2:

Behold he standeth behind our wall, looking through the windows, looking through the lattices. Behold my beloved speaketh to me:

Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come. For winter is now past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in our land, the time of pruning is come: the voice of the turtle is heard in our land: The fig tree hath put forth her green figs: the vines in flower yield their sweet smell. Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come: My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hollow places of the wall, shew me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely.

A contrast to the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:

there is no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him.

Mary Magdalene was there on Good Friday, she knew how true that verse was. Now on Sunday she is in the garden, and through the lattice, with the spring leaves growing over it, she sees – the Gardener?

Eyes blurred with tears, heart in utter confusion, that is her first thought.

Jesus himself is not yet used to this body renewed, is not ready to meet her. Presumably he throws his cloak over himself before walking round to meet her. ‘Noli me tangere’, do not touch me, is completely understandable from a human point of view at this moment. But we know he later invited the disciples to touch him.

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November 7, Jesus Beyond Dogma II: vii – “Christ is everything and is in everything”


The Incarnation means God identifying with the human species. There is the Christic structure in all of us. Everything is open to infinite growth because God’s being, in whose image we are created, is love, communication, infinite openness. This total communication is called “Son” or “Word” in God. It means that creation possesses the structure of the Son in as much as everything communicates itself, maintains an external relationship, and realises itself by self-giving. The Son is active in the world from the very moment of creation. This activity becomes concentrated when the Word became flesh in Jesus and finally spread throughout the cosmos through the Resurrection: “Christ is everything and is in everything“- Colossians 1.17.

It took concrete form in Jesus because he, from all eternity, was thought of and loved as the focal being in which God would be totally manifested outside God. The Incarnation finishes the complete inter-weaving of God and humankind, in a total unity. Jesus is the exemplar of what will happen to all human beings and the totality of creation. He is the future already realised.

Again, in the Book of Genesis, God gives us the task of naming Creation for God, and tells us that is the name by which it will be known. Considering our track record, it seems that God was backing a loser! Unless – God always intended to become part of Creation. But looking around at the mess the world is in – the fear, the evil, the injustice, the abuse – we could be excused for asking will it ever happen, will Creation ever achieve its purpose of becoming one with the divine?

It already has achieved its purpose – in Jesus we have what is uncreated and what is created totally one. What is in Jesus will be in the rest of Creation by the way those who believe actually live in the world. I used to wonder about all the names we are supposed to think up to name Creation for God, until I found Francis of Assisi – and he tells us the names by which Creation is known are sister and brother, because God is Abba for all of us, through friar Christ.

The coming of Jesus marks not the beginning of a uniquely divine enterprise but its completion. Chardin points out that in the biological part of our existence we could not evolve much further, God has achieved what God set out to achieve; and the coming of God among us in the biological embodiment of Jesus affirms this.

But Jesus is more than a biological creature; as divine he is the transforming of the biological state into which humans will now evolve – with new powers of mind and spirit – which reaches its highest expression in Jesus Risen. To reduce the human story to the past 2000 years diminishes God’s role in the whole creation story. Putting Jesus on a divine pedestal leaves no room for a radically new way of being human.


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May 3: The nail that pierced has become the key to unlock the door: I.



The nail that pierced has become the key to unlock the door: I.

St. Bernard

This beautiful sentence from St. Bernard has been a source of hope for me for many years.  I first encountered it during a period of intense suffering.  A sympathetic friend sent me a card, bought at a monastery gift shop, on which these words were carefully hand-scribed by a monastic calligrapher.  Clearly, an unknown monk or nun also treasured these words.

Where does the quotation come from, and what was St. Bernard talking about?  In answering these questions, I’ve discovered that there are levels of meaning to be found here that perhaps go beyond what St. Bernard may have originally intended.  But, no matter.  I doubt St. Bernard would object to our ruminating over his phrase, or seeing it as plant that produces many flowers.

mercylogoThis phrase occurs in one of St. Bernard’s homilies on the Song of Songs.  In this homily, he is talking about God’s mercy.  There is a story about St. Bernard that illustrates just how important the theme of mercy is for him, and how deeply personal its resonances.  The story has it that, apparently, the Lord once appeared to him and said, “Bernard, you have not yet given me everything.”  Dismayed, Bernard is said to have replied, “But Lord, what more can I give you?  I have given you all my possessions, and all my money.  I have given up all thought of worldly honour and success.  I have given up family life; I have given all my friends to you.  I have renounced marriage in order to belong to you alone.  I have given you everything.  What more can I possibly give?”  “Bernard,” replied the Lord gently, “you have not given me your sins.”

For St. Bernard, the Lord’s mercy is there ahead of us, so to speak.  The Lord is not merely willing to be merciful when we are ready to come to him in penitence.  He actively invites us to unburden ourselves to him, before we are ready.  He does not want us to give him only the more presentable parts of ourselves – the good bits.  He wants us to give the other side of ourselves to him, too – the shadows, the deceits, the conceits, the sins.

What does all this have to do with our quotation?  For the moment, we are locating these words in the context of mercy – a mercy that wants to lavish its love upon us – no matter who we are or what we have done.


Godshill, Isle of WIght.

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March 10th: The Most Perfect Way.

gate,broken (800x487)


In the first of his homilies on the Song of Songs Gregory explains that it concerns ‘the most blessed and most perfect way of salvation – I mean which comes through love’. Some people seek salvation because they fear punishment and some because they desire rewards, but the Song of Songs speaks to those who ‘love with their whole heart and soul and strength not something else, something that comes from the Giver, but that very One who is the source of all good things.’

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March 9: Gregory of Nyssa



Today the Roman Martyrology commemorates Gregory of Nyssa, brother of Basil the Great and Macrina (see blog entries for 2-9 January 2016). Among Gregory’s most influential works are his Life of Moses and homilies on the Song of Songs. The latter were composed at the behest of a wealthy young Christian woman named Olympias who lived in Constantinople, and were delivered in the church at Nyssa during Lent, most likely in 394 or 395.

In his preface Gregory explains that although he wrote them in response to Olympias’ requests, he did so not for her benefit, since he is sure she has no need of them, but so that ‘some direction may be given to more fleshly folk for the sake of the spiritual and immaterial welfare of their souls.’

In addressing them to a congregation of ordinary churchgoers Gregory shows a confidence in the spiritual maturity of ordinary laypeople which contrasts strikingly with the reservations of his mentor Origen, who in the prologue to his own commentary on the Song ‘[advises and counsels] everyone who is not yet rid of the vexations of the flesh and blood and has not ceased to feel the passion of his bodily nature, to refrain completely from reading this little book and the things that will be said about it. For they say that with the Hebrews also care is taken to allow no one even to hold this book in his hands, who has not reached a full and ripe age.’


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