The Song of Songs begins as the Bride asks to be brought to the chambers of her lover, who is both shepherd and king. In a particularly striking image that prefigures the Passion and Resurrection, the Bridegroom calls His Bride "a lily among thorns" (Song 2:2). They share an intimate meal - as we do when we celebrate the Eucharist - which the Bride describes in this way:
I delight to rest in his shadow,Then the Bride has a dream that makes it seem as though her lover has left her:
and his fruit is sweet to my mouth.
He brings me into the banquet hall,
and his emblem over me is love.
... His left hand is under my head
and his right arm embraces me. (2:3-4, 6)
On my bed at night, I sought himBut just after she says this, she finds him and says that she "took hold of him and would not let him go" (3:4). Her desire to hold fast to the Bridegroom recalls the disciples' desire to cling to Christ and their refusal to believe that He was going where they could not follow.
whom my heart loves -
I sought him but I did not find him.
... Have you seen him whom my heart loves? (3:2-3)
Then the daughters of Jerusalem - the faithful - are urged to gaze upon the King as he comes in a royal procession, surrounded by the "valiant men of Israel" and
In the crown with which his mother has crowned himThis is Good Friday, the day of Christ's marriage to His Church, when He receives His crown of thorns, the crown shared by His sorrowful mother, and His love for us is consummated on the cross. The day is "good" because it pleased God to redeem us, it was indeed "the day of the joy of his heart."
on the day of his marriage,
on the day of the joy of his heart. (3:11)
The Bridegroom praises His Bride and tells her that "until the day breathes cool and the shadows lengthen," he will "go to the mountain of myrrh, / to the hill of incense," presumably to offer a sacrifice for her (4:6), just as Christ went to the hill of Calvary to sacrifice Himself for us.
Then the Bride has another dream, more heartbreaking than the first, because in this dream, she is not reunited with her lover. "I was sleeping," she says, "but my heart kept vigil" (5:2). She hears her lover knocking at the door, but she does not rise immediately to open it. She is afraid. She has taken off her garment - the veil of the temple has been torn - and her feet have been washed - as the Lord washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper - and she hesitates, but the sound of her lover's voice makes her heart tremble (5:4), so she rises. With fingers "dripping choice myrrh" (5:5) - an image which recalls the anointing at Bethany in Matthew 26, as well as the spices used to anoint Christ's body for burial - she goes to open the door, but she opens it to darkness and silence:
My lover had departed, gone.When the Bride goes looking for the Bridegroom, she is "struck" and "wounded" by the watchmen of the city (5:7), but she praises her lover, even in his absence. She knows he will return. Then her joy is restored when she meets him in the garden and sees the lilies and the vines in bloom, and they retire together to their marriage bed (7:12-13). Again she is able to say, "His left hand is under my head, and his right arm embraces me" (8:3).
I sought him but I did not find him;
I called to him but he did not answer me. (5:6)
So too, we share in Christ's suffering as we celebrate His Passion, but we praise Him even in His seeming absence. We know what he has promised: "you are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you" (John 16:22).
"Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one,
For see, the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone." (Song 2:10-11)