A slightly more condensed version of these articles were originally written for the online mag Examiner.com (now AXS). My links thereto no longer work, so I am guessing they took them down. I moved them here.
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The sacred in the Song

Article 6 Article 8

Salvador Dalí: Sponsabo te mihi in sempiternum
Salvador Dalí: Sponsabo te mihi in sempiternum
As we move toward the end of the Song of Songs topic we will be taking the sacrality of the Song as a given. (There will probably be one more entry on this topic to sum things up.) Earlier entries in this series can be found by visiting my Song of Songs website. At this point we need to look at how it works as a spiritual composition, and especially as an allegory.

Most of us would distinguish between the feelings of love we might have for God and love he have for our partner (or desired partner). Some of this may reflect our subconscious ambivalence about sexual love. For people in traditional religious groups, this makes sense because we inevitably have forbidden desires. Even if love and sex are different, and it is only the sex that is sometimes taboo (with the wrong partner, at any rate), some part of our mind often seems to shake its finger at us even if we are involved in a religiously acceptable relationship (for most groups, this means within marriage).

Gian Lorenzo Bernini: The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa
Gian Lorenzo Bernini: The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa
The Song of Songs seems to be unabashed in its acceptance of sexual activity as an appropriate expression for love between people. At its most basic level, we should take this to correct the finger-shaking part of our minds. One thing we note is that the sex is not of the “so that” nature: It is not “so that” they can have more babies, or “so that” she can reward him for something. The only purpose is “so that” they can give expression to their love.

How then, does this apply to loving God? First off, sex in love may be the most pleasurable thing we have access to in this life, but it pales in comparison to full communion with the true Beloved. Most of us have experiences that only hint at that. Some mystics (like Teresa of Ávila, the subject of the picture on the left) describe experiences that exceed our understanding, but even those are only shadows. Second, while such experiences may help ferry us through harder times, that is not their purpose. Nor do they somehow “prove” the existence of God for us when our faith is challenged. God desires us with an intensity beyond our comprehension. Our true fulfillment as humans is to return that love, in good times or bad, in faith or in doubt. Loving God, like maintaining a good marriage, requires work, sacrifice, and, most importantly, surrender.

Even our love for our earthly partners is best fulfilled when it mirrors our love for the Eternal one.

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