The Augustinian Recollect Luciano Audisio reflects in this article on the vision of women in the Bible, specifically in the book of the Song of Songs
We are living a crucial historical moment for humanity, we are, I do not know if you could say so, before a change of paradigm. Today it is enough to open a newspaper or watch the news to meet every day with one of the most painful things that among human beings can happen to us, which is the so-called “gender violence”. This grieves that it is so and it hurts to see how the plan of the creator that was from the beginning, that of the complementarity of man and woman (see Gn 2-3), collapses before these facts. It is in this situation that I read one of the great books we have in the Bible, that of the Song of Songs. There I found a poem that perfectly illuminated that which was from the beginning: complementary man and woman in love, in search and in life. We read the poem:
I was sleeping
my heart in candle
when I hear my beloved who calls me:
“Open my beloved,
my dove without blemish
that I have the head
my curls, the serene of the night. ”
– I already took off my tunic,
How can I put it on again?
I already washed my feet
How am I going to march them again?
My love puts your hand
through the opening:
I shudder to feel it,
Listening to it, my soul escapes me.
I have already risen
to open my beloved:
my hands drip
my fingers myrrh flowing
by the handle
of the lock.
I myself open my beloved,
I open, and my beloved has already left.
I look for it and I can not find it,
I call him and he does not answer.
The guards found me
that haunt the city.
They beat me and wounded me,
they took off my cloak
the sentries of the walls.
SHE: Girls from Jerusalem,
that if they find my beloved,
tell him … what will they say? …
I’m sick with love
THEM: What distinguishes your beloved from the others,
you, the most beautiful?
What distinguishes your beloved from the others,
How do you conjure us?
SHE: My beloved has gone down to his garden,
to the eras of balsameras,
to graze in the gardens,
and collect lilies.
I am for my beloved, and my beloved is for me,
he shepherds among the lilies.
What is striking at first sight is that the one who sings this love is the woman, the one who rejoices in the beloved, the one who is ecstatic at the memory of the beloved. It is she who sings the possession, the union, the calmness and the transformation that the union of bodies operates.
It is interesting to think this, because in almost all this type of literature, in the profane field, the masculine gaze is dominated or at least has a certain preponderance. He is the man who sings to his beloved. In this sacred book it is the woman who sings expressing all her affection, with all the feeling, the capacity and the loving surrender. It is the woman who sings with the eagerness to share life, to give tenderness, to receive affection, to enjoy the wonders of life together with the beloved person. It is not seen as a relief but as the hunger for love, for human love, which, because it is human, carries the indelible burden of divinity.
On the other hand, at least so far we have not found in the cultures of the Middle East a testimony of feminine love, as direct, as fine, as full of enthusiasm as this poem. This is the other complementary aspect of the Bible: it is human language, but it is also communication from God. It is the fruit of the experience of a people, but experience of faith and loyalty of God. It is not the experience of the one who seeks God but of the one who has been sought and challenged by God. This closeness to God has led the people, with many detours and very slowly, to recognize the greatness and wonders of women.
At one point the poem brings us to the “girls of Jerusalem.” This figure tries to put the drama according to the desire of the woman, and make way for her, so that she can express why her beloved is unique to her. It is a love that completely transforms both.
The last three verses of the poem (vv.1-3), you can find that love in its fullness that has been consummated, what at first seemed only a dream gives way to reality. The husband will have as main occupation to be united to his wife, in which he finds all his fullness and complementarity. She is her garden, like that of the beginning, it is her perfume, she is the most beautiful of all the flowers. She is the one who contemplates and admires the beloved. She is his and he is her. They have united their lives, they have overturned one in the other all love. This love is sacred, this love is the love of the beginning.
Luciano Audisio OAR
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