The Rosary Light and Life - Current Announcements - May / June 2013
As we prepare to celebrate the great feasts of our Savior's Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of his mother, this is a splendid time to offer a prayer for our own Fr. Duffer, whose dedication to the Rosary Center is so magnificent and visible a reflection of God's love. On April 14 Fr. Duffer celebrated his ninety-eighth birthday, and although he no longer actively directs the affairs of the Rosary Center, he is still very active at the heart of its ministry. Please pray for this anchor in our lives!
And if you are looking for an inspirational website, let me suggest www.prayerbreaks.org. This is the online branch of a ministry directed by Mary and Michael John Poirier. Michael spent some years discerning his vocation as a Dominican. When he decided God was calling him to marry, he waited until his vows expired and put his considerable musical talents to work proclaiming the gospel as a layman, husband, and father. Michael John's outreach is directed particularly toward men, whom he never ceases to call to pray the Rosary. You will be deeply touched by his and his wife's ministry.
Once again we turn to you to beg help for mailing rosaries to foreign missions. The U.S. Postal Service has raised the cost of shipping a box of rosaries from $47.99 to $59.95. I no longer recall what the cost was when I arrived at the Rosary Center, back in 2004, but this is an astronomical leap in a mere eight years.
We continually receive letters from the missionaries to whom we send rosaries; you cannot imagine their gratitude! Your kindness and generosity fulfill Jesus' command to take the gospel to "all the world," and the individuals who receive the rosaries for which you underwrite the postage are more grateful than you can imagine. Please continue your support of this vital ministry!
The Song of Songs for Catholics
by Fr. James Thompson, O.P.
The fourth poem runs from 5:2 to 6:3, and opens with another night scene as in Poem 2. It also takes up the search motif again (5:2-8). This time the atmosphere is more charged because her lover had arrived at night only to be locked out. The old adage, "He who hesitates is lost" applies here, if we change "he" to "she." In her excited hesitation she misses her chance, because he gave up, leaving her. This time in her night search the watchmen are not so gentle. When they come upon her, they beat her up.
In the book of Revelation, the risen Lord told the church of Laodicea,
So naturally the Church Fathers, on encountering the missed opportunity of the Beloved in this poem saw it as descriptive of the sorrow that leads to repentance. She hesitates because she is not dressed, not ready, and groggy from sleep. When the Holy Spirit prompts us to do a good thing, and we dither and then don't, this is such a missed opportunity. However, often enough our sleepy spiritual torpor may involve a more definite rejection of our Bridegroom's calling. Apponius, a 5th century commentator, interpreted the start of the poem this way:
Now you might be thinking that the Church Fathers would be hard pressed to find a mystical meaning to night watchman beating up a stray young woman at night. But have not fear! On a mystic reading, this corresponds to what St. John of the Cross termed "the dark night of the soul." The most famous person of recent memory we know who had this mystic experience is Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The "dark night" is the experience of having no personal sense of God's presence. It can involve intense suffering, and longing for the previous mountain-top experiences.
Alternatively, her night search and rough encounter with the guards could signify that she goes forth once more as Christ's bride, wearing the mantle that is the grace leading to a spotless life, and while seeking him anew she faces tribulations which test and train her. As St. Ambrose put it:
Her loving yearning has become so intense, that she asks the Daughters of Jerusalem to give her Lover this message: I am sick with love (5:8). Some patristic commentators see in this an image of the Communion of Saints. The Venerable Bede put it this way: The Bride is rightly faint with love when having been beaten and wounded by the sword of the Spirit she puts off the mantle of carnal desire, for as a holy soul gains strength in God, her fondness for this world becomes more feeble and infirm.... the daughters of Jerusalem are the citizens of the heavenly homeland, some of whom are still on pilgrimage on earth, and some of whom are already reigning there.
The maidens ask her what is so great about this guy, and she replies with her own praises of his physical attributes. In her description she, too, starts at the top of the body with his head, and works her way down to his legs and feet (5:10-16), but closes with a jump back up to his mouth. In the traditional interpretations, these various details are related to the excellencies of our savior, Jesus Christ. In the end, he is discovered to be where he should be, in his garden (6:1-3). Her report echoes 2:16.
His mouth is sweetness itself; he is all delight. (5:16) From the mystical perspective, the lady's appreciation of the beauty of the lover images the love of the soul for God, the love of the Church for Christ, the source of all beauty and himself Beauty Unsurpassable.
And what might we make of this poem taken at the literal level as a love song? Surely this describes the experience of many couples when a misunderstanding arises. In this life, no matter how much in love a couple may be, they are never perfectly attentive to each other all of their days. Some contemporary commentators have seen a not-so-veiled reference to sexual intercourse in the language of opening the door and inserting the hand. Now while, as I previously wrote, the entire Song quivers with sexual desire and tension, I do not see a reference to its consummation here. It does not fit the context of the lover's nocturnal disappointment, and her regretful search. Certainly there is innuendo here of such desire, but not its fulfillment.
Years ago I noticed that the fellow ringing up my purchase in a store had a tattoo in Hebrew that encircled his arm. I asked him what it said, and he replied: "My beloved is mine, and I am his." To which I replied, "Ah, the Song of Songs!" And he just smiled. This poem ends with these words, as does 2:16; these will find an echo once more in 7:11.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus and
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