From our discussion in the last two posts we were able to recognize the Christocentric meaning behind the act of ‘two becoming one flesh’ as well as the truly biblical meaning of ‘knowing’ another.
Last but not least, we must discuss the Song of Songs. While justice cannot be done to it here it nonetheless needs to be discussed for its obvious sexual and marital imagery.
The Song of Songs was originally meant to describe the ideal relationship between God and Israel, as numerous biblical scholars have understood said relationship as a marriage. The coming of Jesus was a fulfillment of the Song as the Song becomes a ‘type’ of sorts for Christ and his Church. In other words, the Song that was a symbol of the marriage between God and Israel now, with the coming of Christ, represents a fuller understanding of God’s marriage with the whole Church. Ephesians 5 is a fulfillment of the Song of Songs.
The Song is also seen as a great example of human marital love and sexuality. This makes sense, for if the full meaning of the Song comes to light in Christ and His Church and human marital love is a symbol of said relationship, then it follows that certain parallels the Song makes can be applied to husband and wife.
The very first verse, ‘Let him kiss me with kisses of his mouth’ is a kickoff to how the rest of the Song is going to be: poetical and sensual. The Bride and Bridegroom continue this by referring to each other with loving characterizations of the other; ‘my beloved’, ‘O most beautiful among women’, ‘as a lily among thorns, so is my beloved among women’, ‘you ravish my heart my sister, my bride’, ‘my lover is radiant and ruddy; he stands out among thousands’. Even by today’s standards these would be considered to be very romantic and loving ways to refer to one’s spouse.
Sensual scenes are seemingly depicted throughout the Song as well. One such example is when the Groom describes his Bride as an ‘enclosed garden, a fountain sealed,’ (Song 4: 12) and his Bride responds, ‘Let my lover come to his garden and eat his choice fruits’ (Song 4: 16).
Later the Bride describes an instance in which the two meet: “I was sleeping but my heart kept vigil; I heard my lover knocking: ‘Open to me, my sister, my beloved, my dove, my perfect one! For my head is wet with dew, my locks with the moisture of the night.’ I have taken off my robe, am I then to put it on? I have bathed my feet, am I then to soil them? My lover put his hand through the opening; my heart trembled within me, and I grew faint when he spoke. I rose to open to my lover, with my hands dripping myrrh: with my fingers dripping choice myrrh upon the fittings of the lock.’ (Song 5: 2-5).
And another: “[Bridegroom] How beautiful you are, how pleasing, my love, my delight! Your very figure is like a palm tree, your breasts are like clusters. I said: I will climb the palm tree, I will take hold of its branches. Now let your breasts be like clusters of the vine and the fragrance of your breath like apples, and your mouth like an excellent wine –[Bride] that flows smoothly for my lover, spreading over the lips and the teeth. I belong to my lover and for me he yearns. Come, my lover, let us go forth to the fields and spend the night among the villages. Let us go early to the vineyards, and see if the vines are in bloom, if the buds have opened, if the pomegranates have blossomed; there will I give you my love” (Song 7: 7-13).
Very sexually implicit themes here, yet obviously beautiful because of how beautiful the sexual act and marital love truly is. The last quoted verse in particular is breathtaking, for it shows their explicit yearning for and their unity to one another, with the Bride completing the Bridegroom’s words of passion and desire. This speaks to the very heart of intimate and binding love.
In the end the Song of Songs is a revelation of what it means to ‘know’ your spouse and to be ‘one flesh’ with them. It is, more than anything else, a depiction of sexuality and marriage as it is designed to be. And with Christ’s death and Resurrection the Song becomes elevated to the love story by which all other love stories derive their existence and significance.
That is the case with the entire Bible, though. All of Sacred Scripture points toward the beauty of God-given sexuality and love, whether it plainly discusses it or not. That is because all of Scripture is focused on the author of that sexuality and love, the Eternal Love. From that Love alone flows forth the grace present in the Marital Covenant and the Marital Act.
May God give us the grace to always remember the gift of our sexuality and may we use it in accordance with His will. Amen.