Valentine’s Day

Song of Songs III by Marc Chagall

Love songs, ancient and modern, tell of the yearning of the soul for the beloved one.  The Song of Songs in the Hebrew Bible is one of the first to express this profound yearning:
At night in my bed I longed
for my only love.
I sought him but did not find him. (Song of Songs 3:1)

Contemporary love songs continue to tell of this longing:
Remembering your touch, your kiss,
your warm embrace, I’ll find my way back to you…
I’ve longed for you and I’ve desired
to see your face, your smile…
It would be so good to be in your arms
where all my journeys end…
Say you’ll hold a place for me in your heart… (“The Promise” by Tracy Chapman)

Movies, plays, pop songs, operatic arias, television dramas, “Dear Abby” letters all pursue the quest of “the one true love”.   Such a love requires deep spiritual roots, otherwise we are in danger of expecting too much from one human being.    Perhaps love songs are pointing to the deepest love of all, the love of God, which underlies all human love.  Perhaps God may be the “everything” that our souls desire.

The 14th century English mystic, Richard Rolle asked “what is love?” and answered his own question thus:
Love is an ardent yearning for God, with a wonderful delight and security.  God is light and burning.  Light illuminates our reason; burning ignites our yearning so that we can desire nothing except him.  Love is one life, coupling together the one loving and the one beloved … love makes us one with God.  Love is the beauty of all virtues.  Love is a device through which God loves us and we God and each of us one another.  Love is the desire of the heart.

It was standard monastic teaching by Richard’s time to interpret the Song of Songs as love poetry between the soul and God.  The wonder of that interpretation is that such an earthy, erotic poem should give rise to such spiritual thoughts, which goes to show that God’s love is not something far removed from everyday human love, but is intimately involved with it.  So Happy Valentines Day!  Enjoy your loved ones for they are precious gifts of God.  Enjoy and delight in God’s love for you.  As the king says to his beloved in the Song of Songs, so God says to you:
Arise, my fair one, and come away;
for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come. (Song of Songs 2:10-12)

About John Fisk

I am a retired pastor, who served churches in New England for 33 years. I emigrated to the USA from England in 1974 and completed two graduate degrees in theology and pastoral practice at Andover-NewtonTheological School. In retirement I am focused on the teaching of Christian meditation, providing spiritual guidance, leading retreats and occasional preaching. I am particularly interested in contemplation, the mystical path and social justice.
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