Saint Bernard Sermon on the Song of Songs:
Go Here for the Full Text of His Commentary on The Song of Songs.
Return to Index:
Return to Main Page:

On the Song of Songs


Sermon 1

VI. II. But there is that other song, which, by its unique dignity and sweetness, excels all those I have mentioned and any others there might be; hence by every right do I acclaim it as the Song of Songs. It stands at a point where all the others culminate. Only the touch of the Spirit can inspire a song like this, and only personal experience can unfold its meaning. Let those who are versed in the mystery revel in it; let all others burn with desire rather to attain to this experience than merely to learn about it. For it is a melody that resound abroad by the very music of the heart, not a trilling on the lips but an inward pulsing of delight, a harmony not of voices but of wills. it is a tune you will not hear in the streets, these notes do not sound where crowds assemble; only the singer hears it and the one to whom he sings-the lover and the beloved. It is preeminently a marriage song telling of chaste souls in loving embrace, of their wills in sweet accord, of the mutual exchange of the heart's affection

Sermon 4
III. 3. We should take note of the kind of pendants they offer her [the bride]: they are made of gold and studded with silver. Gold signifies the splendor of the divine nature, the wisdom that comes from above. The heavenly goldsmiths to whom this work is committed, promise that they will fashion resplendent tokens of the truth and insert them in the soul's inward ears. I cannot see what this may mean if not the construction of certain spiritual images in order to bring the purest intuition of divine wisdom before the eye of the soul that contemplates, to enable it to perceive, as though puzzling reflections in a mirror, what it cannot possibly gaze on as yet face to face. The things we speak of are divine, totally unknown except to those who have experienced them. While still in this mortal body, while still living by faith, while the content of the clear interior light is still not made clear, we can, in part, still contemplate the pure truth. Any one of us who has been given this gift from above may make his own the words of St. Paul: "Now I know in part;" and: 'We know in part and in part we prophesy." But when the spirit is ravished out of itself and granted a vision of God that suddenly shines into the mind with the swiftness of a lightning flash, immediately, but whence I know not, images of earthly thin fill the imagination, either as an aid to understanding or to temper the intensity of the divine light. So well-adapted are they to the divinely illuminated senses, that in their shadow the utterly pure and brilliant radiance of the truth is rendered more bearable to the mind and more capable of being communicated to others. My opinion is that they are formed in our imaginations by the inspirations of the holy angels, just as on the other hand there is no doubt that evil suggestions of an opposite nature are forced upon us by the bad angels.

4. Perhaps, too, we have here those puzzling reflections seen by the Apostle in the mirror [1 Cor 13:12] and fashioned, as I have said, by angelic hands from pure and beautiful images, which I feel bring us in contact somehow with the being of God, that in its pure state is perceived without any shadow of corporeal substances. The elegance of the imagery that so worthily clothes and reveals it I attribute to angelic skill. That this is so is more distinctly conveyed by another version: "We, the artificers, will make you images of gold, with silver decorations." 'With silver decorations" and "studded with silver" mean the same thing. To me they seem to signify not merely that the angels produce these images within us, but that they also inspire the elegance of diction which so fittingly and gracefully embellishes with greater clarity and keener enjoyment our communication of them to the audience.

Sermon 52
2. That in heaven it is like this, as I read on earth, I do not doubt, nor that the soul will experience for certain what this page suggests, except that here she cannot fully express what she will there be capable of grasping, but cannot yet grasp. What do you think she will receive there, when now she is favored with an intimacy so great as to feel herself embraced by the arms of God, cherished on the breast of God, guarded by the care and zeal of God lest she be roused from her sleep by anyone till she wakes of her own accord.

II. 3. Well then, let me explain if I can what this sleep is which the Bridegroom wishes his beloved to enjoy, from which he will not allow her to be awakened under any circumstances, except at her good pleasure ... This sleep of the bride, however, is not the tranquil repose of the body that for a time sweetly lulls the fleshly senses, nor that dreaded sleep whose custom is to take life away completely. Farther still is it removed from that deathly sleep by which a man perseveres irrevocably in sin and so dies. It is a slumber which is vital and watchful, which enlightens the heart, drives the heart, drives away death, and communicates eternal life that does not stupefy the mind but transports it. And-I say it with out hesitation-it is a death, for the apostle Paul in praising people still living in the flesh spoke thus: 'For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.'

4. It is not absurd for me to call the bride's ecstasy a death, then, but one that snatches away not life but life's snares, so that one can say 'We have escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers'. In this life we move about surrounded by traps, but these cause no fear when the soul is drawn out of itself by a thought that is both powerful and holy, provided that it so separates itself and flies away from the mind that it transcends the normal manner and habit of thinking; for a net is spread in vain before the eyes of winged creatures. Why dread wantonness where there. is no awareness of life? For since the ecstatic soul is cut off from awareness of life though not from life itself, it must of necessity be cut off from the temptations of life ... How good the death that does not take away life but makes it better; good in that the body does not perish but the soul is exalted.

5. Men alone experience this. But, if I may say so let me die the death of angels that, transcending the memory of things present, I may cast off not only the desire for what are corporeal and inferior but even their images, that I may enjoy pure conversation with those who bear the likeness of purity.

III. This kind of ecstasy, in my opinion, is alone or principally call contemplation. Not to be gripped during life by material desires is a mark of human virtue; but to gaze without the use of bodily likenesses is the sign of angelic purity. Each, however, is a divine gift, each is a going out of oneself, each a transcending of self, but in one, one goes much farther than in the other.

6. Consider therefore that the bride has retired to this solitude, there, overcome by the loveliness of the place, she sweetly sleeps within the arms of her bridegroom, in ecstasy of spirit. Hence the maidens are forbidden to waken her until she herself pleases.

Sermon 74
II. 5. Now bear with my foolishness a little. I want to tell you of my own experience, as I promised. Not that it is of any importance .... I admit that the Word has also come to me-I speak as a fool-and has come many times But although he has come to me, I have never been conscious of the moment of his coming. I perceived his presence, I remembered afterwards that he had been with me; some times I had a presentiment that he would come, but I was never conscious of his coming or his going. And where he comes from when he visits my soul, and where he goes, and by what means he enters and goes out, I admit that I do not know even now; as John says: 'You do not know where he comes from or where he goes.' There is nothing strange in this, for of him was it said, 'Your foot steps will not be known.' The coming of the Word was not perceptible to my eyes, for he has not color; nor to the ears, for there was no sound; nor yet to my nostrils, for he mingles with the mind, not the air; he has not acted upon the air, but created it. His coming was not tasted by the mouth, for there was not eating or drinking, nor could he be known by the sense of touch, for he is not tangible. How then did he enter? Perhaps he did not enter because he does not come from outside? He is not one of the things which exist outside us. Yet he does not come from within me, for he is good, and I know there is no good in me. I have ascended to the highest in me, and look! the word is towering above that. In my curiosity I have descended to explore my lowest depths, yet I found him even deeper. If I look outside myself, I saw him stretching beyond the furthest I could see; and if I looked within, he was yet further within. Then I knew the truth of what I had read, 'In him we live and move and have our being'. And blessed is the man in whom he has his being, who lives for him and is moved by him.

6. You ask then how I knew he was present, when his ways can in no way be traced? He is life and power, and as soon as he enters in, he awakens my slumbering soul; he stirs and soothes and pierces my heart, for before it was hard as stone, and diseased. So he has begun to pluck out and destroy, to build up and to plant, to water dry places and illuminate dark ones; to open what was closed and to warm what was cold; to make the crooked straight and the rough places smooth, so that my soul may bless the Lord, and all that is within me may praise his holy name. So when the Bridegroom/ the Word, came to me, he never made known his coming any signs, not by sight, not by sound, not by touch. It was not by any movement of his that I recognized his coming; it was not by any of MY senses that I perceived he had penetrated to the depth of my being. Only by the movement of my heart, as I have told did I perceive his presence; and I knew the power of his might cause my faults were put to flight and my human yearnings brought into subjection. I have marvelled at the depth of his wisdom when my secret faults have been revealed and made visible the very slightest amendment of my way of life I have experience his goodness and mercy; in the renewal and remaking of the spirit of my mind, that is of my inmost being, I have perceived the excellence of his glorious beauty, and when I contemplate all these things I am filled with awe and wonder at his manifold greatness.

7.But when the Word has left me, all these spiritual powers become weak and faint and begin to grow cold, as though you had removed the fire under the boiling pot, and this is a sign of his going. Then my soul must needs be sorrowful until he returns, and my heart again kindles within me-the sign of his returning. When have had such experience of the Word, is it any wonder that I take to myself the words of the Bride, calling him back when he has withdrawn? For although my fervor is not as strong as hers, ye am transported by a desire like hers. As long as I live the word return', the word of recall for the recall of the word, will be on lips.

As often as he slips away from me, so often shall I call him back From the burning desire of my heart I will not cease to call him begging him to return, as if after someone who is departing, and I implore him to give back to me the joy of his salvation, and restore himself to me.

Sermon 83
3. Such conformity weds the soul to the Word, for one Who is the Word by nature shows himself like him too in the exercise will, loving as she is loved. When she loves perfectly, the soul wedded to the Word. What is lovelier than this conformity? What more desirable than charity, by whose operation, 0 soul, not content with a human master, you approach the Word with confidence, cling to him with constancy, speak to him as to a familiar friend, and refer to him in every matter with an intellectual grasp proportionate to the boldness of your desire'? Truly this is a spiritual contract, a holy marriage. It is more than a contract, it is an embrace: an embrace where identity of will makes of two one spirit. There need be no fear that inequality of persons should impair the conformity of will, because love is no respecter of persons. It is from loving, not revering, that love receives its name. Let someone filled with horror or stupor or fear or wonder be content with reverence; where there is love all these are unimportant. Love is sufficient for itself; when love is present it absorbs and conquers all other affections. Therefore it loves what it loves, and it knows nothing else. He who is justly honored, held in awe, and admired, prefers to be loved. He and the soul are Bridegroom and Bride. What other bond or compulsion do you look for between those who are betrothed, except to love and be loved?

II. This bond is stronger even than nature's firm bond between parents and children. 'For this', it says in the Gospel, 'a man will leave his father and his mother and cleave to his bride.' You see how strong this feeling is between bride and bridegroom-it is stronger not only than other affections, but even than itself.

4. Now the Bridegroom is not only loving; he is love. Is he honor too? Some maintain that he is, but I have not read it. I have read that God is love, but not that he is honor. It is not that God does not desire honor, for he says, 'If I am a father, where is my honor? Here he speaks as a father, but if he declares himself to be a husband I think he would change the expression and say, 'If I am a bridegroom, where is my love?' For he had previously said, 'If I am the Lord, where is my fear?' God then requires that he should be feared as the Lord, honored as a father, and loved as a bridegroom. Which of these is highest and most lofty? Surely it is love. Without it fear brings pain, and honor has no grace. Fear is the lot of a slave, unless he is freed by love. Honor which is not inspired by love is not honor but flattery. Honor and glory belong to God alone, but God will receive neither if they are not sweetened with the honey of love. Love is sufficient for itself; it gives pleasure to itself, and for its own sake. It is its own merit and own reward. Love needs no cause beyond itself, nor does it demand fruits; it is its own purpose. I love because I love; I love that I may love. Love is a great reality, and if it returns to its beginnings and goes back to its origin, seeking its source again, it will always draw afresh from it, and thereby flow freely. Love is the only one of the motions of the soul, of its senses and affections, in which the creature can respond to its Creator, even if not as an equal, and repay his favor in some similar way ... Now you see how different love is, for when God loves, he desires nothing but to be loved, since he loves us for no other reason than to be loved, for he knows that those who love him are blessed in their very love.

5. Love is a great reality, but there are degrees to it. The bride stands at the highest. children love their father, but they are thinking of their inheritance, and as long as they have any fear of losing it, they honor more than they love the one from whom they expect to inherit. I suspect the love which seems to be founded on some hope of gain. It is weak, for if the hope is removed it may be extinguished, or at least diminished. It is not pure, as it desires some return. Pure love has no self-interest. Pure love does not gain strength through expectation, nor is it weakened by distrust. This is the love of the bride, for this is the bride-with all that means. Love is the being and the hope of a bride. She is full of it, and the bridegroom is contented with it. He asks nothing else, and she has nothing else to give. That is why he is the bridegroom and she the bride; this love is the property only of the couple. No one else can share it, not even a son.

... but the love of a bridegroom-or rather of the Bridegroom who is love-asks only the exchange of love and trust. Let the Beloved love in return. How can the bride-and the bride of love--do other than love? How can Love not be loved?

6. Rightly, then, does she renounce all other affections and devote herself to love alone, for it is in returning love that she has the power to respond to love. Although she may pour out her whole self in love, what is that compared to the inexhaustible fountain of his love? The stream of love does not flow equally from her who loves and from him who is love, the soul and the Word, the Bride and the Bridegroom, the Creator and the creature-any more than a thirsty man can be compared to a fountain. Will the Bride's vow perish, then, because of this? Will the desire of her heart, her burning love, her affirmation of confidence, fail in their purpose because she has not the strength to keep pace with a giant, or rival honey in sweetness, the lamb in gentleness, or the lily in whiteness? Because she cannot equal the brightness of the sun, and the charity of him who is Charity? No. Although the creature loves less, being a lesser being, yet if it loves with its whole heart nothing is lacking, for it has given all. Such love, as I have said, is marriage, for a soul cannot love like this and not be beloved; complete and perfect marriage consists in the exchange of love. No one can doubt that the soul is first loved, and loved more intensely, by the Word; for it is anticipated and surpassed in its love. Happy the soul who is permitted to be anticipated in blessedness so sweet. Happy the soul who has been allowed to experience the embrace of such bliss! For it is nothing other than love, holy and chaste, full of sweetness and delight, love utterly serene and true, mutual and deep, which joins two beings, not in one flesh, but in one spirit, making them no longer two but one. As Paul says: 'He who is united to God is one spirit with him.'

Sermon 85
13. But notice that in spiritual marriage there are two kinds of birth, and thus two kinds of offspring, though not opposite. For spiritual persons, like holy mothers, may bring souls to birth by preaching, or may give birth to spiritual insights by meditation. In this latter kind of birth the soul leaves even its bodily senses and is separated from them, so that in her awareness of the Word she is not aware of herself. This happens when the mind is enraptured by the unutterable sweetness of the Word, so that it withdraws, or rather is transported, and escapes from itself to enjoy the Word. The soul is affected in one way when it is made fruitful by the Word, in another when it enjoys the Word: in the one it is considering the needs of its neighbor; in the other it is allured by the sweetness of the Word. A mother is happy in her child; a bride is even happier in her bridegroom's embrace. The children are dear, they are the pledge of his love, but his kisses give her greater pleasure. It is good to save many souls, but there is far more pleasure in going aside to be with the Word. But when does this happen and for how long? It is sweet intercourse, but lasts a short time and is experienced rarely! This is what I spoke of before, when I said that the final reason for the soul to seek the Word was to enjoy him in bliss.


SERMON 1: On the Title of the Book,
The Song of Songs

 SERMO I. De ipso titulo libri: Cantica canticorum Salomonis.
 
YOU, my brothers, require instruction different from that which would suit people living in the world, at least in matter if not in manner,. For one who would teach following the Apostle [Paul advice] , would give them milk to drink, not meat. (1Cor 3:1-2; Heb 5:12-14) While more solid food is to be set before spiritual persons, as [t]he [Apostle] teaches by his example: We speak, he says, not in the learned words of human wisdom, but in the doctrine of the Spirit, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. And, We speak wisdom among the perfect (1 Cor 2:13). Such I believe you to be, unless, it is to no purpose that you have so long engaged in the study of heavenly things, in mortifying your senses, and in meditating day and night on the law of God. (1 Cor 2:6. 4. Ps 1:2) So now open your mouths to receive not milk, but bread. It is the bread of Solomon, and is exceedingly good and palatable: the Book entitled the Song of Songs is the bread I speak of: let us then bring it forth if you please, and break it.
[0785A] 1. Vobis, fratres, alia quam aliis de saeculo, aut certe aliter dicenda sunt. Illis siquidem lac potum dat, et non escam (I Cor. III, 2), qui Apostoli formam tenet in docendo. Nam spiritualibus solidiora apponenda esse, itidem ipse suo docet exemplo, Loquimur, inquiens, non in doctis humanae sapientiae verbis, sed in doctrina spiritus, spiritualibus spiritualia comparantes; item, Sapientiam loquimur inter perfectos (I Cor. II, 13, 6), quales vos nimirum esse confido; nisi frustra forte jam ex longo studiis estis coelestibus occupati, exercitati sensibus, et in lege Dei meditati die ac nocte. Itaque parate fauces, non [0785B] lacti, sed pani. Est panis apud Salomonem, isque admodum splendidus sapidusque; librum dico, qui Cantica canticorum inscribitur: proferatur, si placet, et frangatur.
 
Ecclesiastes: the way of purgation - praktike
 
 
2. BY the words of Ecclesiastes, unless I am mistaken, you have, through the grace of God, already been sufficiently enlightened to understand and despise the vanity of this world.
 2. Nam de verbis Ecclesiastes satis, ni fallor, per Dei gratiam instructi estis mundi hujus cognoscere et contemnere vanitatem.
 
Proverbs: the Way of Illumination
ethike- theoria physike
 
 
WHAT need to mention the Book of Proverbs ? Is not your whole life and conduct regulated and reformed in perfect accordance with the doctrines contained therein?
 Quid et Parabolas? An non vita et mores vestri juxta eam quae in ipsis invenitur doctrinam sufficienter emendati sunt et informati?
 
Thus having first tasted both these loaves borrowed, [as it were] from the Friend's cupboard you are now invited to try this third bread,which, you may well find stronger.
 Proinde illis ambobus praelibatis, quos nihilominus de amici arca praestitos accepistis, accedite et ad tertium hunc panem, ut probetis forsitan potiora
 
The respective goals of purgation and illumination
 
 
JUST as there are two evils that solely or particularly wage war against the soul,a vain love of the world and excessive love of self,;so against these two infections we are given the two Books [of Ecclesiastes and Proverbs] as antidotes.
 Cum enim duo sint mala, quae vel sola, vel maxime militant adversus animam, vanus scilicet amor mundi et superfluus sui, pesti utrique [0785C] duo illi libri obviare noscuntur;
 
Of these the former, using the hoe of discipline, grubs out whatever is corrupt in our morals, and whatever is superfluous in the indulgence of the flesh ; whilst the latter, by the light of reason, prudently discovers the smoke of vanity in all worldly glory, and distinguishes it faithfully from the solidity of truth, putting the fear of God and the observance of His commandments before all human interests and earthly desires.
 alter sarculo disciplinae prava quaeque in moribus, et carnis superflua resecans; alter luce rationis in omni gloria mundi [0786A] fucum vanitatis sagaciter deprehendens, veraciterque distinguens a solido veritatis. Denique universis humanis studiis, ac mundanis desideriis praetulit Deum timere, ejusque observare mandata. Merito quidem.
 
This is well. Such fear is the beginning of true wisdom, as such observance is its consummation -assuming you agree with me that the only true and  perfect wisdom consists in avoiding evil and doing good. For without the fear of God it is impossible to avoid evil perfectly, and there is no good work possible without the observance of the commandments.
 Verae etenim sapientiae primum illud, initium; secundum, consummatio est: si tamen constat vobis non aliud veram et consummatam esse sapientiam, quam declinare a malo, et facere bonum; itemque recedere a malo neminem posse perfecte absque timore Dei, nec bonum opus omnino esse praeter observantiam mandatorum.
 
The respective goals of purgation and illumination
  
3. NOW , then, after ridding ourselves of these two evils by the study of those two books, we may confidently take in hand this third discourse on holy contemplation, which, being the fruit of the preceding, should only be entrusted to sober minds and chastened ears.
 3. Depulsis ergo duobus malis duorum lectione librorum, competenter jam acceditur ad hunc sacrum theoricumque sermonem: qui cum sit amborum fructus, nonnisi sobriis mentibus et auribus omnino [0786B] credendus est
 
For it would be criminal presumption on the part of imperfect souls to occupy themselves with such a sacred subject before the flesh has been tamed by discipline and subdued to the spirit, and the vanity and cares of the world despised and abjured. Just as the eye that is blind or closed cannot profit by the light poured upon it, so the animal man perceiveth not those things which are of the Spirit of God. The reason is, because the Holy Spirit of discipline will flee from the deceitful, that is, from a man of ill-regulated life, neither will He ever have part with the vanity of the world, inasmuch as He is the Spirit of truth. For what society hath the wisdom which is from above with that of the world, which is foolishness in the sight of God, or with that of the flesh, which is the enemy of God ?
 . Alioquin ante carnem disciplinae studiis edomitam et mancipatam spiritui, ante spretam et abjectam saeculi pompam et sarcinam, indigne ab impuris lectio sancta praesumitur. Quomodo nempe lux incassum circumfundit oculos caecos vel clausos, ita animalis homo non percipit ea quae sunt Spiritus Dei (ibid., 14). Quippe Spiritus sanctus disciplinae effugiet fictum (Sap. I, 5), quod est vita incontinens; sed nec erit ei unquam pars cum mundi vanitate, cum veritatis sit Spiritus (Joan. XIV, 17). Quae enim societas ei quae desursum est sapientiae, et sapientiae mundi, quae 1268 stultitia est apud Deum (I Cor. III, 19); aut sapientiae carnis, quae et ipsa inimica est Deo? (Rom. VIII, 7.)
 
Anyhow, I suppose the friend, who cometh to us off his journey, will have no reason to complain of us when he has helped himself to this third loaf of bread.
 Puto autem quod jam non habebit unde adversum nos murmuret [0786C] is, qui nobis de via venit amicus, cum et tertium istum insumpserit panem.
 
But who shall break it to us? Lo ! we have here the Father of the family Himself, as it is written, you shall know the Lord in the breaking of the bread. Who else but He is capable ? As for me, I am not rash enough to undertake such a task. You must, therefore, my brethren, so look upon me as to look  for nothing from me. For I also am one of those who hope, a beggar, like yourselves, for the food of my soul, for a spiritual alms. Poor and needy, I appeal to Him Who openeth and no man shutteth, begging Him to reveal to us the deep mysteries contained in this Book. The eyes of all hope in Thee, 0 Lord. The little ones have asked for bread and there is no one to break it unto them. For this we look to Thy gracious mercy. Therefore, O most Lovingkind ! break Thy bread to the hungry, by my hands, if it so please Thee, but by Thine own power.
 4. Sed quis franget? Adest paterfamilias; cognoscite [0787A] Dominum in fractione panis. Quis enim alter idoneus? Non equidem ego mihi istud temere arrogaverim. Sic spectetis ad me, ut ex me non exspectetis. Nam et ego unus sum de exspectantibus, mendicans et ipse vobiscum cibum animae meae, alimoniam spiritus. Revera pauper et inops pulso ad eum, qui aperit et nemo claudit, super sermonis hujus profundissimo sacramento. Oculi omnium in te sperant, Domine. Parvuli petierunt panem; non est qui frangat eis; speratur id a benignitate tua. O piissime, frange esurientibus panem tuum, meis quidem, si dignaris, manibus, sed tuis viribus.
 
And, first of all, tell us, I beseech Thee, by whom, of whom, and to whom is it said, Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth ? And what means this abruptness, this sudden beginning in the middle of the discourse ? For the words are so uttered as it there had been a previous speaker to whom this other is represented as if replying, whoever she is that solicits the kiss. Again, if she requests or demands to be kissed by someone, why ask expressly and explicitly that this be done with the mouth and with his own mouth, as if it were customary to give such an embrace otherwise, or by proxy ? Yet she is not content with saying, let him kiss me with his mouth, but uses the still more unusual expression, with the kiss of his mouth. A pleasant discourse this, surely, which begins with a kiss. In truth, the smiling face, so to speak, of this part of Scripture entices and allures us to read, so that it is a delight to investigate, even with labour, its hidden meanings ; for the difficulty of inquiry never wearies when we are charmed by the sweetness of the discourse. Yet who can help having his attention aroused by this beginning without a beginning, and this novelty of language in an ancient book ? Here we have proof that this work is no product of human genius, but composed by the art of the Holy Spirit, in the fact that despite its being so difficult to understand, it is at the same time such a pleasure to study.
 5. Dic, quaeso, nobis, a quo, de quo, ad quemve dicitur: Osculetur me osculo oris sui? (Cant. I, 1.) [0787B] aut quale est istud ita subitaneum, et factum repente de medio sermonis exordium? Sic quippe in verba prorumpit, quasi quempiam loquentem praemiserit, cui consequenter respondentem et hanc introducat personam, quaecunque est ipsa quae osculum flagitat. Deinde si se osculari a nescio quo vel petit, vel praecipit; cur signanter et nominatim ore, et ore suo; quasi aliud quam os, aut alienum, et non potius suum, exhibere sibi soleant osculantes? Quanquam ne hoc quidem dicit: Osculetur me ore suo: sed aliud profecto inusitatius: Osculo, inquit, oris sui. Et quidem jucundum eloquium, quod ab osculo principium sumit, et blanda ipsa quaedam Scripturae facies facile afficit et allicit ad legendum, ita ut quod in ea latet, delectet etiam cum labore investigare, [0787C] nec fatiget inquirendi forte difficultas, ubi eloquii suavitas mulcet. Verum quem non valde attentum faciat istiusmodi principium sine principio. et novitas locutionis in veteri libro? Unde constat hoc opus non humano ingenio, sed Spiritus arte ita compositum, ut quamvis difficile intellectu, sit tamen inquisitu delectabile.
But are we to pass over the title ? No, my brethren, we must not omit a single iota, since we are commanded to gather up the smallest fragments, lest they be lost. The title runs, The Beginning of Solomon's Canticle of Canticles. Observe, in the first place, how fitly the name Solomon, Which, in the Hebrew, signifies the Peaceful One, stands at the head of a book which takes its beginning from the token of peace, that is, from a kiss. Notice, also, that such a beginning invites to the understanding of this Canticle only peaceful souls, those, namely, who have succeeded in freeing themselves from the tumult of the passions and the distractions of temporal cares.
 6. Sed quid? titulum praeterimus? Non oportet ne unum quidem iota (Matth. V, 18), quando et minutias jubemur colligere fragmentorum, ne pereant (Joan. VI, 12). Titulus talis est: Incipiunt Cantica canticorum Salomonis. Observa in primis Pacifici nomen, quod est Salomon, convenire principio libri, qui incipit a signo pacis, id est ab osculo; simulque [0787D] adverte hujuscemodi principiis solas ad hanc intelligendam scripturam mentes invitari pacificas, quae sese jam a vitiorum vindicare perturbationibus et curarum tumultibus praevalent.
 
Nor should the fact that the Book is not called a canticle, but the Canticle of Canticles, be regarded as insignificant. I have, indeed, read many canticles in Sacred Scripture, but none other, as far as I can remember, bearing such a title. Israel sang a hymn to the Lord, after escaping the sword and the yoke of Pharaoh, what time the sea rendered them the double service of delivering them from danger and wreaking vengeance on their enemies. Yet that hymn was not called the Canticle of Canticles. Holy Scripture simply says, if my memory serves me aright, that Israel sang this song to the Lord. Debbora, too, sang a canticle, as did also Judith, and the mother of Samuel, and several of the prophets. But we do not read that any of these canticles were called the Canticle of Canticles. You will find, I think, that all  those persons sang their songs on account of some benefit bestowed upon themselves or their nation, as for a victory gained, or a danger avoided, or the acquisition of some coveted object. Such singers, therefore, had special motives for their canticles, and sang to show their gratitude for the divine favours, as it is written, He will confess to Thee when Thou shalt benefit him. But King Solomon, excelling in wisdom, exalted in glory, and secure in peace, is known to have stood in need of no earthly object the acquisition of which would stimulate him to sing this canticle of his. Nor do his own writings anywhere give occasion for such a surmise.
 7. Dehinc ne hoc quoque otiosum putes, quod non simpliciter Cantica, sed Cantica canticorum habet inscriptio. Multa quippe legi cantica in Scripturis, et nullum illorum memini taliter appellari. Cecinit Israel carmen Domino, quod gladium pariter et jugum 1269 evaserit Pharaonis, gemino maris mirabiliter liberatus simul et vindicatus obsequio. Non tamen quod cecinit, dictum est Canticum canticorum; [0788A] sed, si bene recolo: Cecinit, ait Scriptura, Israel carmen hoc Domino (Exod. XV, 1). Cecinit etiam Debbora (Judic. V, 1), cecinit et Judith (Judith XVI, 1), cecinit et mater Samuelis (I Reg. II, 1); prophetae quoque aliqui cecinerunt, et nemo eorum legitur appellasse canticum suum Cantica canticorum. Sane omnes, ni fallor, cecinisse reperies pro quocunque suo, suorumve percepto commodo: verbi gratia, pro obtentu victoriae, pro evasione periculi, aut pro concupitae rei qualiscunque adepto beneficio. Ita ergo plerique cecinerunt, singuli pro singulis causis, ne ingrati divinis beneficiis invenirentur, juxta illud: Confitebitur tibi, cum benefeceris ei (Psal. XLVIII, 19). At vero rex iste Salomon, sapientia singularis, sublimis gloria, rebus affluens, pace [0788B] securus, nullius talium eguisse cognoscitur, pro quo accepto ista decantare libuerit. Sed nec Scriptura ipsa sui uspiam tale aliquid significare videtur.
 
We must therefore suppose that, under divine inspiration, he celebrates the praises of Christ and His Church, the grace of heavenly love, and the mysteries of the eternal marriage. He also gives expression to the desires of the holy soul, and exulting in spirit, composed this nuptial song in sweet but figurative language. For, like Moses, he veils his countenance, here, peihaps, not less dazzlingly bright than the Lawgiver''s on Mount Sinai, because at that time very few, if any, could endure to gaze upon the glory of his naked face. In my opinion, therefore, this marriage hymn owes its title to its excellence, and with good reason is singularly called the Canticle of Canticles in the same way as He to Whom it is sung is singularly named King of kings and Lord of lords.
 8. Itaque divinitus inspiratus, Christi et Ecclesiae laudes, et sacri amoris gratiam, et aeterni connubii cecinit sacramenta; simulque expressit sanctae desiderium animae, et epithalamii carmen, exsultans in spiritu, jucundo composuit eulogio, figurato tamen. Nimirum velabat et ipse instar Moysi faciem suam (Exod. III, 6), non minus forsitan in hac parte fulgentem, eo quod illo adhuc in tempore nemo, aut rarus erat, qui revelata facie gloriam istam speculari sufficeret. Igitur pro sui excellentia reor nuptiale hoc carmen hujusmodi titulo praesignitum [alias [0788C] praesignatum], ut merito Cantica canticorum singulariter appelletur, sicut is quoque cui canitur, singulariter est dictus: Rex regum, et Dominus dominantium (I Tim. VI, 15).
 
And you, my brethren, if you look back upon your own experience, have not you also sung a new, canticle to the Lord, because He worked wonders, in the victory wherewith your faith hath vanquished the world, and in your deliverance out of the pit of misery and the mire of dregs ? Again, when He added the further grace of setting your feet upon the rock and directing your steps, I am sure that for this indulgence of a new life, your mouths were filled with another new canticle, a hymn to our God. And when your penitence obtained from Him not only the pardon of your sins but even the promise of reward-did you not with still greater fervour, rejoicing in the hope of future goods, sing your songs in the ways of the Lord, because great is the glory of the Lord ? And if for any amongst you a mysterious or obscure text of Scripture has sometimes become, on a sudden, luminous with meaning, surely it was a duty to charm the ears of God with the voice of joy and peace, the sound of one feasting, in return for the alms of heavenly bread bestowed. But even in these daily trials and combats, in which all who live piously in Christ are kept constantly engaged by the world, the flesh,and the devil-thus constantly experiencing in themselves that the life of man upon earth is a warfare-in these also, I say, we find the obligation of daily singing new canticles for victories achieved. As often as a temptation is overcome, or a vice eradicated, or an imminent danger avoided, or a hidden snare discovered, or any deeply rooted and inveterate passion finally and completely vanquished, or some virtue, long and eagerly desired and often asked for, is at last obtained through the grace of God, so often, according to the Prophet, should we sound forth our thanks and praise and bless God in His gifts for each benefit received. For, when the judgment comes, he shall be considered an ingrate who cannot say to God, Thy justifications were the subject of my song in the place of my pilgrimage. 9. Caeterum vos, si vestram experientiam advertatis [(158) 1Kb], nonne in victoria, qua vicit mundum fides vestra, et in exitu vestro de lacu miseriae et de luto faecis, cantastis et ipsi Domino canticum novum, quia mirabilia fecit? Rursus cum adjecit primum supra petram statuere pedes vestros, et dirigere gressus vestros; puto quod et tunc nihilominus pro indulta novitate vitae immissum sit in os vestrum canticum novum, carmen Deo nostro. Quid cum poenitentibus vobis non solum peccata dimisit, sed insuper [0788D] promisit et praemia; non multo magis spe gaudentes futurorum bonorum, cantastis in viis Domini, quoniam magna est gloria Domini? At si cui forte vestrum clausum vel obscurum aliquid de Scripturis interdum eluxerit, tunc prorsus necesse est pro percepta coelestis panis alimonia divinas mulceat aures in voce exsultationis et confessionis sonus epulantis. Sed et in quotidianis exercitiis et bellis, quae nulla hora pie in Christo viventibus desunt a carne, a mundo, a diabolo, sicut militiam esse vitam hominis super terram (Job VII, 1) incessanter experimini in vobismetipsis, quotidiana necesse est cantica pro assecutis victoriis [0789A] innovari. Quoties tentatio superatur, aut vitium subjugatur, aut imminens periculum declinatur, aut laqueus insidiantis deprehenditur, aut annosa et inveterata quaecunque animae passio semel perfecteque sanatur, aut multum diuque cupita et saepius petita virtus tandem aliquando Dei munere obtinetur, quid nisi toties, juxta prophetam, personat gratiarum actio et vox laudis (Isai. LI, 3), et ad singula quaeque beneficia benedicitur Deus in donis suis? Alioquin ingratus reputabitur, cum discussio venerit, qui non poterit dicere Deo: Cantabiles mihi erant justificationes tuae in loco peregrinationis meae (Psal. CXVIII, 54).
I think, my brethren, you already recognise in your own experience those canticles, which in the Psalter are not called the Canticle of Canticles, but the Canticles of the Steps. For at every advance you make towards perfection, according to the ascents which each has disposed in his heart, a particular canticle has to be sung to the praise and glory of Him Who advances you. I do not see how otherwise can be fulfilled the verse, A voice of exultation and salvation in the tabernacle of the just. Still less that most beautiful and salutary exhortation of the Apostle, In psalms and hymns and spiritual canticles, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord.
 10. Arbitror vos in vobis ipsis illa jam recognoscere, quae in psalterio, non Cantica canticorum, sed [0789B] Cantica Graduum appellantur, eo quod ad singulos profectus vestros, juxta ascensiones quas quisque in corde suo disposuit, singula sint cantica depromenda ad laudem et gloriam promoventis. Quonam modo impleatur aliter ille versiculus non video: Vox exsultationis et salutis in tabernaculis justorum (Psal. CXVII, 15); aut certe Apostoli iila pulcherrima saluberrimaque exhortatio: In psalmis, hymnis, 1270 et canticis spiritualibus cantantes, et psallentes in cordibus vestris Domino (Ephes. V, 19).
 
The Song of the Bride and the Bridegroom
  
But there is [also] that song which, through its singular dignity and sweetness, surpasses all those I have mentioned as well as any any others there may be. And this I rightly proclaim to be the Song of Songs, for it is the fruit of all the others. Only [the] annointing [of the Spirit] can teach it, only experience can teach it['s meaning].
 11. Sed est canticum, quod sui singulari dignitate et suavitate cunctis merito quae memoravimus, et si qua sunt alia, antecellit: et jure hoc appellaverim Canticum canticorum, quia caeterorum omnium ipsum est fructus. Istiusmodi canticum sola unctio [0789C] docet, sola addiscit experientia.
 
Let experts call this again to mind; and let beginners burn with desire, not only to know but to experience it. For this [Song] is not a vocal utterance but a jubilation of the heart: not a cry from the lips but an [internal] movement of rejoicing; a symphony not of voices but of  wills.
 Experti recognoscant, inexperti inardescant desiderio, non tam cognoscendi, quam experiendi. Non est enim strepitus oris, sed jubilus cordis; non sonus labiorum, sed motus gaudiorum; voluntatum, non vocum consonantia.
 
It is not heard externally, for it does not resound in public. Only the singer can hear it, and the One to Whom it is sung, namely, the Bride and the Bridegroom.
 Non auditur foris, nec enim in publico personat: sola quae cantat audit, et cui cantatur, id est sponsa et sponsus.
 
For it is a wedding song, celebrating the chaste and joyous embraces of loving souls, the concord of their way of life, and the love arising from reciprocal affection
 Est quippe nuptiale carmen, exprimens castos jucundosque complexus animorum, morum concordiam, affectuumque consentaneam ad alterutrum charitatem.
 
Yet this [song] can neither be sung nor heard by souls that are young. or neophytes, or recently converted from the world; but only by those who have made progress through dedicated study in their innermost soul [mens]. For these have made such great progress by God's grace, that they have now come to maturity and are, as it were, of marriageable age - measuring time, that is, by merits rather than years. They are prepared for the mystical nuptials of the Heavenly Bridegroom, as will be more fully explained in its proper place..
 12. Caeterum non est illud cantare seu audire animae puerilis et neophytae adhuc, et recens conversae de saeculo, sed provectae jam et eruditae mentis; quae suis nimirum profectibus. Deo promovente, [0789D] in tantum jam creverit, quatenus ad perfectam aetatem, et ad nubiles quodam modo pervenerit annos, annos dico meritorum, non temporum; facta nuptiis coelestis sponsi idonea, qualis denique suo loco plenius describetur.
 
Now, it is the hour at which both our poverty and our Rule require us to go forth to manual labour.

Go Here for the Full Text of His Commentary on The Song of Songs.

Free Website Translator