Tag Archive: Song of Songs


Picture the most beautiful sight you could ever chance upon… perhaps a snow-swept mountainside or an iridescent-feathered bird of paradise. Imagine the most luxurious scent you could ever smell… a whiff of burning frankincense, a sultry gardenia blossom. Imagine the sweetest sound you could ever hear… a virtuoso’s symphony, the tinkling of sleigh bells. Imagine the most delicious taste and the most pleasing thing you ever touched. Oh how great these things are!

Now, imagine this: that all the wonderful sensations in the world are but a foretaste of heavenly things. The pitter-pat of rain and awesome clamor of thunder are but hints of the majesty of God. Morning sunlight on your skin is but a shadow of the Blessed face of God. All our satisfied- and unsatisfied appetites are only a foreshadowing of our consuming desire for God. Our senses are gifts, love letters sent to us that we may delight in creation and look forward even more to the Creator. That first bite into a ripe mango, the caress of a lover’s hands, the rumble of a cat purring on your lap, all are reminders of a Creator deeply in love with us!

I remember reading in the Old Testament that no man has seen the face of God, for if he should gaze upon God, he would die.

“And again he said: Thou canst not see my face: for man shall not see me and live.” – Exodus 33:20.

Because God is so indescribably beautiful, more splendid than anything in the universe, we would simply die from beauty. Our sinful ugliness would quiver in the Divine Presence and not stand to live. But the amazing thing is that God took all His killer-beauty and became man! That Beauty which withstood not a slightest imperfection, descended to walk amongst abject ugliness and sin. Truly Jesus, in one of his most shattering statements, told his disciples:

“He who has seen me has seen the Father” – John 12:45.

How the Lord deigned to wrap us in divine love and terrific beauty! How Love and Beauty Himself met death so we may see the Father, He who lit stars and painted planets with His fingers, who commanded the sun to burn and rise!

Perhaps one thing about as scandalous as God becoming man was the fact that through Jesus Christ, man could become like God.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” – 1 John 3:2

Ponder this a moment…In the Beatific Vision won for us by Christ, we will at last see the face of God- and we will not die!! Truly these are the depths of love and beauty of which, we can readily perceive every lovely, beautiful thing in the universe is but a foretaste. More than sensuous, resplendent and enrapturing things, we were made to desire God from Whom every goodness comes. Yet God does not stand apart on account of our lowliness… He does not deprive humanity of our One Desire because of our guilt; no He brings the One Desired to us!

The greatest, happiest memory we have lived is a taste of God’s love. Whatever ravishes us: the canvas of stars above, the embraces of romance, a stirring motet, Mona-Lisa enshrined, a romp with your kids on a summer day, is a small taste of what God has stored for us. It is written in Paul’s letters that eye has not seen nor ear has heard what God has in mind for those who love Him.

stairway_to_heaven_by_tizz77

Moreso, when God enters into us, we become beautiful for it is our souls that are His desired. God stooped down into our mean existence, not a little- but all the way. God became man, suffering and wretched man, to reclaim His one desire. Thus, it only makes sense the beloved would be shaped into the image of the Lover. On earth, the Christian soul may yearn in expectation, groaning within us, awaiting the blessed moment when beloved and Lover unite. Upon our deathbeds, may we joyfully incline our ears as God whispers, in sweetest poetry, saying:

See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.

Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come,  

the cooing of doves is heard in our land.

The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.

Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.”

–          Song of Songs 2:11-13

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Last week a friend visited me. We got to talking about the Mass… and I showed her a video on Youtube of a priest consecrating the Holy Eucharist ad orientem. No, this is not the name of a famous Chinese restaurant- it means facing towards the east, towards the altar. Inadvertently, I started gushing about the priesthood, what a gift it is and how it is a profound sign of romance with God.

To begin, the Mass itself is shrouded in nuptial language and symbolism. Paul refers to the Church in his letter to the Ephesians: “And the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Eph 5:31-32) The book of Revelation was originally called “Apocalypsis” from Greek, meaning “unveiling” and it describes in detail a heavenly liturgy and the sacrificial wedding feast of Christ. Christ himself used wedding imagery in his parable of the King’s banquet where those without proper garments were cast away. Most telling, one of the angels gathered around heaven’s throne in Revelation exclaims:  “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (19:9)Everything about a Mass is nuptial. When Mass bells ring, it is a summons to all, to come to this wedding feast. Wearing garments, the priest approaches the altar from the church’s central aisle, as do a bride and groom. The penitential rite asks for God’s forgiveness, so we may be cleaned of sin and given the white garments of grace. We approach the Holy Eucharist from that same aisle, bowing in humility and accepting the flesh of Christ, our Divine Spouse.

Now that this short background is given, I will speak just of the priest, because it was what I saw in the priest that brought me to such admiration. A Catholic priest is one wedded to the Church- and to Christ. The sacrament of Holy Orders unites him with God Almighty in an unseen bond of untold power. It melds his soul into the soul of the Church, which is the Holy Spirit sealed by the blood of Christ. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the consecration, ad orientem. (note: I am not going into liturgical politics here and am aware that consecration ad populum or facing the people, is wholly valid. So please do not misinterpret things)

The priest becomes closed to the world and opened to God. He stands there, partly in silence, sometimes muttering and sometimes speaking plainly. A conversation is happening there, a dialogue so hidden that we dare not pry, we don’t ask “Father what were you saying back there?” It is a conversation so tender that the very heart of Christ seems manifest before us. We perceive Calvary and we gasp at the horror- and sheer beauty of it.

While an epic scene unfolds, the priest becomes less like a stuffy celibate and every minute more like an enraptured spouse. He leans close, whispers sweet nothings to God, his Beloved and gazes into the space between heaven and earth. The man without a wife and family experiences the greatest of intimacies. In amorous poetry matching the Biblical Song of Songs, the soul makes love to God. Here, the priest seems to say: “My Dearest, My Only, I am here…I worship you… I love you. Stay with me and never leave!” The priest becomes as John, the Beloved who leaned upon Our Lord’s breast and who, captured by love, ceased to worry.

Someone who relinquished what is so natural and so goodly for every human man suddenly realizes why. In that moment, nothing is worth more than God. Nothing beckons and calls but God alone. The priest realizes only he can approach the altar, only he may caress the sacred host or raise the precious chalice. Only he can place his head on the breast of Christ, place his hand into His saving wounds and draw out the sacrifice which is mankind’s salvation. What a gift! What profound intimacy and divine love! All the mercy, long-suffering and tenderness of God revealed here!

 

ad orientem

 

Our only proper reaction is to shrink back, bend low and weep as did the Israelites when smoldering clouds wreathed the mountain of Sinai. We can say, “Jesus Christ, my Lord and God, have mercy!” One thing we absolutely cannot do is ignore it, shrug or say in prideful impatience: “What is going on? Will he hurry up?” Even non-Catholic and non-Christian persons cannot pretend that something mysterious is not happening. Whether one adores or despises the priest, he can’t look away; he can’t help but be moved on some level. God is at work in the hands of a priest. He declares His love through the whispers of a priest. He uses lowly men, both wicked and saintly men, doubtful and confident men, ugly and wondrous men, selfish and loving men. Yes, God, who created the entire Universe in ages primordial, chooses mere man that He may draw all men to Himself.