Reinterpreting The Song Of Songs For Our Age (@layanglicana)

sos 001
Tell me the meaning of The Song of Songs, and I will tell you who you are.

It is a mirror for every age – every age in human history and every age of an individual. I discovered The Song of Songs at the age of twelve, when flicking through the bible for entertainment during a boring sermon (sorry, school chaplain!). My friends and I would read ‘the naughty bits’ out loud to each other and giggle, while wondering at the unexplored territory of the delights described. And now as I enter the different delights of old age (sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything) I read with pleasure tinged with melancholy this lyrical celebration of youth and physical love.

At both stages, it is the literal, obvious meaning that draws me in, the poetry and the lyricism.

But in between, I was more interested in the metaphorical. If you are looking for metaphors, take your pick between the extended love of God for his people 1, a means for mystics to explain the ineffable 2, the relationship between Jerusalem/the Temple and God 3, a book of holy wisdom4 and so on. This leisurely enjoyment of ‘the other’, though, ends on a note of separation and anxiety: nothing is static. If The Song of Songs were a piece of furniture, it would be a Louis XV gilt armchair, covered in silk damask: the height of luxe et volupté, with just a hint of the upheaval of the French Revolution round the corner.

When I was twelve, I only had my schoolgirl friends with whom to make sense of this book. As I grew older, I could read the commentaries, beginning with the Venerable Bede and continuing through Bernard of Clairvaux and St Teresa of Avila (but I didn’t). Now I have this excellent book by Graeme Watson, which I have read and can thoroughly recommend.

But now also, I can discuss the Song of Songs on Facebook, in blogs and comments, and on twitter if I can find enough people prepared to exchange 140 characters on the topic. The people who join in this discussion may be from any part of the world, not necessarily in the same time zone. The ‘group’ do not even have to be all together at the same time (except by arrangement in live chats if they feel the need). The discussion may take place crammed into a single day or spread over months and even years.

My only regret? That digital exchanges have not yet escaped the fourth dimension: anyone else like to ‘friend’ Teresa of Avila on Facebook?


1 p5 The Song of Songs by Graeme Watson
2 p9 Ibid
3p14 Ibid
4 p 18 Ibid


The Song of Songs: A Contemplative Guide


About Laura Sykes