Today is the Feast Day of St. Scholastica, the foundress of the Benedictine Order of nuns and the twin sister of St. Benedict of Nursia, founder of the Benedictine Order of brothers. Together they are credited with establishing monasticism in the western world.
It is the first reading today that grabbed my attention. It is from the Old Testament book, The Song of Songs – also known as the Canticle of Canticles. It is a collection of love lyrics, arranged to present an inspired portrayal of ideal human love and a resounding affirmation of the goodness of human sexuality that is applicable to the sacredness and the depth of married union.
While the lovers in the Song are clearly human figures, both Jewish and Christian traditions across the centuries have adopted “allegorical” interpretations. The Song is seen as a beautiful picture of the ideal Israel, the chosen people whom the Lord leads by degrees to a greater understanding and closer union in the bond of perfect love. Such readings of the Song build on Israel’s covenant tradition. Christian tradition has followed Israel’s example in using marriage as an image for the relationship with God. The Song has been read as a sublime portrayal and praise of this mutual love of the Lord and his people.
But the allegory aside, it is a description of the goal of real marital love. Love that on the best days is patient and kind… on the best days. Love that bears all things, believes all things, endures all things and hopes all things on every day. Because we are asked to remember that this pledged love is meant to be
lived in our inner being: Set me as a seal on your heart.
Lived in the world: as a seal on your arm;
Ever remembering it passion: For stern as death is love, relentless as the nether world is devotion; its flames are a blazing fire.
Believing, hoping, and when needed bearing and enduring all things: Deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away.
Such is the power of love. Such is the nature of God.