Monday, December 21, 2009

Hark, My Lover -- Here He Comes, Springing Across The Mountains!

December 21, 2009

Advent Weekday
Reading 1 Song of Songs 2:5-14
Hark! My lover–here he comes
springing across the mountains,
leaping across the hills.
My lover is like a gazelle
or a young stag.
Here he stands behind our wall,
gazing through the windows,
peering through the lattices.

My lover speaks; he says to me,
“Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, and come!
“For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.

Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!
“O my dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret recesses of the cliff,
Let me see you,let me hear your voice,
For your voice is sweet,and you are beautiful!”

Responsorial Psalm 33
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises.
Sing to him a new song;
pluck the strings skillfully, with shouts of gladness.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.

Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield,
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
R. Exult, you just, in the Lord! Sing to him a new song.

Gospel Luke 1:39-45

Mary set out in those days
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Most blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”

+++ +++ +++ +++

Today, we have a choice of two First Readings. The second, from the Book of the prophet Zephaniah, is for those who might find the passionate love implied in the passage from the Song of Songs a bit too earthy for a liturgical celebration. The Song of Songs, (also known as The Song of Solomon) is a collection of a score of poets about human love and courtship, often sung at weddings, even today. “The poetry is graceful, sensuous and replete with erotic imagery and allusions to the ancient myth of the love of a god and a goddess on which the fertility of nature was thought to depend (The New Oxford Annotated Bible). The pronouns (He, She…) imply that the speakers are a bridegroom, the Lover, a bride, the Beloved, and the chorus. Although it is called ‘The Song of Solomon’ the actual author is unknown. And, although dating from about the 3rd century BC, the symbols and motifs date from early mythology and have become the language of human love and courtship.Oddly enough, the book has no clearly religious content, compared to other books of the Old Testament.

Such an interpretation can be found only by discovering a deeper symbolism in its highly picturesque language. Its inclusion in the Hebrew Scripture can be explained by passages such as Hosea 2:16-19, in which the LORD is described as the “spouse” of his people. In the Christian tradition, it is understood as an allegory of the love of Christ for his bride, the Church (Revelation 21:2, 9), or as symbolizing the intimate experience of divine love in the individual soul. The relationship between mystical experience and sensual ecstasy is well attested.The choice of the reading for today’s liturgy is clearly linked with the Gospel account of the Visitation of Mary and Jesus to Elizabeth and John (yesterday’s gospel as well as today’s). The love expressed in the First Reading clearly points to a close, warm relationship between Jesus and John, where John represents each one of us. Even though most of us do not use this type of passionate language in speaking with Jesus, there have been mystics who did not hesitate to do so. One thinks of the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius Loyola, or the reformers of the Carmelite Orders of men and women, John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila.

As the passage begins, we first hear the voice of the Beloved. She is living in the city with her parents. Not unlike the lover in one of Shakespeare’s best known tragedy, the Lover appears below the Beloved’s window. The door is shut, and the wall is forbiddingly high. “He gazes through the windows, peering through the lattices.” He urges her to elope with him to the countryside: “Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!” The winter, a cold and rainy season in the eastern Mediterranean, is over. “The rains are over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth, the time for pruning the vines has come, and the cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land.” And, of course, as Tennyson reminds us, “In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love” -- a sentiment that relates more to attitude than to age. The Beloved is hiding in the clefts of the rock, a poetic euphemism for her home, a place inaccessible to the Lover. “Let me see you, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and you are beautiful.” In today’s gospel, as we have seen only yesterday, Jesus, the Beloved, is hidden within the womb of his mother. Her voice is sufficient to create joyful responses from both mother and son – Elizabeth’s words “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” are outdone by her unborn son’s leap for joy! He knows already that where the blessed Mother is, our beloved Savior must be near. It is important for us to understand that that the Christian faith not just a catalogue of intellectual precepts and doctrine that touch only our minds and wills. It involves the whole person, body and blood, thoughts and feelings: it is live founded in true love: affection for and spiritual intimacy with our sisters and brothers, the first and foremost being the Son of God and Son of Mary.

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