A reading and a reflection
Song of Songs 4.1-16
How beautiful you are, my love,
how very beautiful!
Your eyes are doves
behind your veil.
Your hair is like a flock of goats,
moving down the slopes of Gilead.
Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes
that have come up from the washing,
all of which bear twins,
and not one among them is bereaved.
Your lips are like a crimson thread,
and your mouth is lovely.
Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate
behind your veil.
Your neck is like the tower of David,
built in courses;
on it hang a thousand bucklers,
all of them shields of warriors.
Your two breasts are like two fawns,
twins of a gazelle,
that feed among the lilies.
Until the day breathes
and the shadows flee,
I will hasten to the mountain of myrrh
and the hill of frankincense.
You are altogether beautiful, my love;
there is no flaw in you.
Come with me from Lebanon, my bride;
come with me from Lebanon.
Depart from the peak of Amana,
from the peak of Senir and Hermon,
from the dens of lions,
from the mountains of leopards.
You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride,
you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.
How sweet is your love, my sister, my bride!
how much better is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your oils than any spice!
Your lips distil nectar, my bride;
honey and milk are under your tongue;
the scent of your garments is like the scent of Lebanon.
A garden locked is my sister, my bride,
a garden locked, a fountain sealed.
Your channel is an orchard of pomegranates
with all choicest fruits,
henna with nard,
nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon,
with all trees of frankincense,
myrrh and aloes,
with all chief spices—
a garden fountain, a well of living water,
and flowing streams from Lebanon.
Awake, O north wind,
and come, O south wind!
Blow upon my garden
that its fragrance may be wafted abroad.
Let my beloved come to his garden,
and eat its choicest fruits.
“I see you”. Are these words thrilling or uncomfortable? How sexy it may be to be really seen, noticed, caressed by the eyes of someone you are glad to let look. The romance of the Song of Songs is the notion that someone loves you enough that they are interested in every part of your body, someone who could spend days getting high on the scent of your armpits. The Singer is unashamedly focused upon the Beloved’s body. He doesn’t buy into the shame culture that we encountered in the first chapter. He sees, really sees her, and he is delighted.
Our marketing culture sees no part of the body as beyond its shame-to-sell reach. Brazilian waxing, intimate deodorants, and tena pads are all part of the arsenal offered to make a modern woman conform to the theoretically desirable body. This Song calls in another direction. The Singer knows this woman’s smell, the headiness of her body getting sticky and fragrant, and he is turned on.
We might wonder how the Beloved hears the Song: is she delighted, aroused, embarrassed, appalled, triggered? It can be exposing to be seen, even by someone who utterly adores you. Many of us have learned to be ashamed of our naked selves. Both the Singer and the Beloved are vulnerable in their intimacy, allowing the other’s gaze and judgement, and they are rewarded by all-embracing love.
God sees you – really sees you. Before you were ever born, as the person you are when everyone is looking, and as you are when truly alone. God sees you deeply, lumps, bumps, dreams, hopes, scars, warts, smells and all. He knows the number of hairs on your head, and whether you have split ends, a receding hairline, or an excellent wash-in colour. You are seen and loved wholly. Take some time this weekend to think about what that means to you. “I am God’s beloved, and God is mine”.
As you prepare to pray, reflect on this verse*:
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
who made me,
strengthen me again to love you
with all my heart, my soul, my mind,
and help me to love myself,
and to overflow with love for my neighbour,
who is also beloved.
* Psalm 139.14, NRSV translation.