Free and Fit NYC - Introduction to the Song of Songs - An Anglo-Catholic Pentecostal Reflection



Free and Fit NYC - Introduction to the Song of Songs - An Anglo-Catholic Pentecostal Reflection 

Introduction to the Song of Songs – An Anglo-Catholic Pentecostal Reflection Throughout the history of the Church, various scholars, preachers, and leaders have commentated on the Song of Songs. Often seen as the most romantic book of the Bible, it provides a gateway to fall in love with God and to discover a more authentic, literal, and affectionate relationship with our creator through symbolic poems and songs of Praise. In our first class on Christian Spirituality in January, at the General Theological Seminary, we reviewed two core points which help me to select today’s title “The Song of Songs, An Anglo-Catholic Pentecostal reflection”. They related directly to the “Character of Spirituality” and examples of the facets of Christian Spirituality. The selected texts for this reflection come from the author’s own spiritual influences. These are represented from working, serving, or actively participating in some capacity in a diversity of Christian communities. These include the Anglican Church of England (HTB, All Souls, Grace Church Hackney and St Marks Kennington), the Episcopal Church in America (Trinity Wall Street, Calvary Church Summit, St Andrews Harrington Park), Hillsong Church (London and New York), the Lutheran Church (Mile Square Church in Hoboken), the Catholic Church in the United Kingdom (Brompton Oratori), America (Our Lady of Grace, Hoboken) and Rome (the Vatican and St Peters Chapel) and, finally, the Global School of Supernatural Ministries in New York City, which originated from Bethel Church, in Redding California. It is imperative to qualify from which perspective we view the Bride and Bridegroom in this text. The Church as a whole is often referred to in the Bible as the ‘Bride of Christ’ and Jesus Christ as the ‘Bridegroom’ (Ephesians 5:22-23). In this circumstance, we find that a more traditional and conservative interpretation of the Song of Songs is a little less intimate in relationship between lover and seeker. In fact, the concept of protecting the Church (as the Bride) helps for us to relate to how Jesus (as the Bridegroom) would like to guard, protect and look after his Bride. It states in Song 8:12 that ‘the vineyard is before me; a thousand peacemakers for you, and two hundred for those who guard its fruit’. Finally, in order to be able to discuss the various spiritual influences sited in our introduction, this reflection will review a variety of different commentaries, devotionals, and translations based on the Song of Songs, with references to their distinguishable differences, identifiable spiritual influences on the author, and ultimately how this shapes the author’s practice of Sport and Spirituality. First Reflection – The Postilla on Nicholas of Lyra on the Song of Songs In our first reflection we look at the Catholic Church and the Postilla of Nicholas of Lyra’s commentary on the Song of Songs. Nicholas of Lyra was born in 1270 in Lyre, Normandy in France. Though he was a scholar of this Hebrew text, he was not from Jewish descent, but rather a Franciscan Friar and preacher. His writings widely appeared and were read from around the fourteenth to the seventeenth century. The text we have chosen has been carefully translated into our modern day English language from the Latin in which Nicholas of Lyra’s commentary was written, in response to the original Greek text that Nicholas would have read and studied. Nicholas of Lyra supports the letter written by Paul to the Church of Ephesus where Paul states that the bride is the Church and Jesus is the bridegroom. This re-emphasizes what we wrote in our introduction in which we address as the Church as Bride and Jesus as the Bridegroom from which this text refers. Nicholas of Lyra states that it is unlikely that the text would have explicitly been about Solomon and his pursuit of Pharaoh’s daughter, as this would be considered a human love, not a divine love or a divine romance as noted by Dr Brian Simmons in his book entitled the Song of Songs “a Divine Romance.” The type of love described in Song of Songs, according to Nicholas of Lyra, is from a higher place than human love. It is describing a more heavenly love; the devout and religious love that is between humanity and its Creator. Nicholas of Lyra states that many Hebrew or Jewish scholars cite that the Song of Songs is similar to that of other parables spoken to the Jewish people, and reflects the relationship between God and the Jews. This love could be referenced in Exodus 20 when God seeks to commune with his Jewish people as if God were pursuing them as the bride she desired to marry. This is where Nicholas of Lyra seeks to clarify and avoid any confusion between Jewish and Catholic faith traditions. He states that it can be said that the relationship between the Bride and the Bridegroom, reflected more exclusively the relationship between God as Creator of all and his creation, but not necessarily as God the Son Jesus, the second part of the Trinity. Nicholas of Lyra states that the Bride would be the wider Universal Church. This helps distinguish the differences between Jewish and Christian faith traditions. Firstly, that the Jewish people before the Christians and then secondly the believers of Jesus and his followers and all Christians thereafter. To clarify, Nicholas of Lyra attributes the Bride to Be the Christian God. Appearing with the Christian Gods and the bride as the Universal Church. Not just the Catholic Church. This would include both Catholic, Protestant, non denominational and all other Christian Churches. In our introduction we spoke about the verse 8:12 in the Song of Songs and ‘the vineyard is before me; a thousand peacemakers for you, and two hundred for those who guard its fruit.’ In this context Nicholas of Lyra seeks to clarify the relationship between God as creator and God as the Son of God. Nicholas of Lyra states that this indeed is God as the Son, Jesus Christ. The structure of the sentence changes from third person to first person and the text here is spoken as if the words were the Lord Jesus Christ as himself speaking directly to the Universal Church as his Bride. Jesus is seen here to be requesting for the Church to rise and respond to his call, seeking for the Church to rally, to protect and guard herself from her present sufferings in the world and rejoice as a Bride. This then leads to a prayer, with the Church building a relationship with her creator through direct dialogue. Verses 8:12 through 8:14 contain detail of how Jesus views the Church “Thou that dwells in the gardens.” Nicholas of Lyra comments that the Gardens of Church often contain trees, and from this picture we can see the Bride as Church Gardens around the globe. Finally, Nicholas of Lyra states that the Angels harkens for the Bride to pray to God, making her requests known, and for Christians to “Make me (God) hear thy voice” through prayer and devout requests. Nicholas of Lyra throughout this commentary uses contextualized theology from his period that displays his rich intellect, personality, and deep relationship with scripture- all done without access to technology, different translations, and Bible scholars from today. Nicolas of Lyra often makes references to other Books of the Bible including the first book of the Songs of Solomon (Psalms) and the second Book the Song of Solomon (Ecclesiastes). In his closing commentary he relates the relationship between Christ and his Bride, the people, as a call to return to Him and seek to be in eternity with Him seated at the right hand of the Father. Second Reflection – The Venerable Bede – On the Song of Songs and Selected Writings The editor of our second reflection on The Venerable Bene, Arthur Holder, is a Graduate from General Theological Seminary (Mdiv), a Priest within the Episcopal Church in the Dioceses of Western North Carolina, and is now a Professor at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. The Venerable Bede was an Anglo-Saxon from the eighteenth century who ministered in the area of Northumbria in England. His works were considered of paramount importance due to the lack of Latin speaking English people during his day and the lack of Biblical knowledge amongst lay persons. His scholarship and translation of the Bible were crucial for the purposes of teaching, preaching, and sharing the Gospel amongst the congregations and people in the areas where he lived and carried out his ministry. Bede states that it is imperative to distinguish the difference between the Synagogue and the Church as he explores the first part of the Song and Songs. This site of gathering is the common theme of our reflection. Bede explains that the word Synagogue in Greek means “gathering together (congregatio in Latin)” and ecclesia means calling together (conuocatio in Latin). Bede believed this concept of “calling together” was more fitting for God’s people in his time, due to the nature of their understanding of Spiritual influence. Reflecting upon this, Bede cites Acts 15:10-11 and the importance of defining the difference between Jewish (Synagogue) and Christian (Church) traditions. This should not be held to an anti-Semitic belief. Bede wants us all to come to Christ. Bede states that the Jews were seeking the first coming of Christ just as much as those of us who have Christian faith today. Bede re-emphasizes Paul’s teaching that all should be able to receive salvation. That if you have faith in Jesus Christ this is where our salvation ultimately lies and it is here Bede places his trust in the relationship between Christ and the Church as representing Gods relationship with both Jew and Gentile, Jew and Christian and to whom all who declare Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Bede states that our current Christian faith tradition is based upon the Lord’s incarnation, passion, and resurrection, but that this was also the hope of the former Synagogue (or Church) for which this book was written and to whom God intended to speak to. Bede is speaking as if God does not only operate not on human time or focus on a particular congregation or people in time, but that he is a God of all people, all nations, and all time. This reflection helps us to understand how at certain points in world History, we make theological assumptions without the consideration of Gods timing, which is perfect. Though God’s timing may seem somewhat delayed, misunderstood, or misinterpreted, Gods timing is ultimately what counts. Bede’s commentary states that Jesus would come as a bridegroom coming forth from his wedding chamber to the whole world with the grace and mercy of a new blessing to all people, all nations and all time. Bede was sympathetic to the Holy Spirit and the nature of Spirituality in his role as doctor, a title given to him by then Pope Leo XIII in 1899, later in life in his later writings. Alan Thacker and Sarah Foot state that Bede was seeking to support the laity within Northumbria and would support and work with his fellow doctors including spiritual masters, rulers, holy preachers, and teachers of the Church to spread the Good news of the Gospel. When reflecting up Song of Songs verse 8:12, our chosen reflective verse for this paper, Bede identifies the nature of those who serve the Bridegroom as those who tend to his garden. This is referencing an idea that Christians of all time could be considered to be laboring in the Lord’s vineyard for the sake of its fruit- that is for the hope of heavenly inheritance and that the Lord would be with them to the very end of the age. The gardens can be infected, damaged, and attacked from various sources, and Bede recognizes the writer of the Song of Songs as being sympathetic to these attacks. He sees a mirror in this, that though Christians would face persecution, they should rejoice and be glad in it always. Yet, Bede also identifies the need to help fellow Christians understand and distinguish the challenges of sustaining a lifestyle worthy of their calling, aspiring for a greater value on this earth, and seeking the Lord with all their heart, all their soul and all their heart. Bede seems to have been compassionate, spiritual, and a true believer in God’s word. Much like Postilla of Nicholas of Lyra in our previous reflection, the desire to serve, follow, and to share the Gospel with all people and all nations was apparent. So much so, that Bede was found on his deathbed with the complete commentaries on the Gospel of John. A true scholar and Child of God demonstrating his rich, devout and spiritual gifts through sharing the word and the testimony of his own life and death. Third Reflection – Awakening Love – An Ignatius Retreat with the Song of Songs Our third reflection is taken from editor Father Gregory Cleveland, Director of the Lanteri Centre for Ignatius Spirituality in Denver, Colorado, and the writings of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The writings of St Ignatius have impacted the author’s perceptions and experience of Spirituality in the context of Spiritual Practices. In the midst of all the business end of semester celebrations, working for eight different Churches, and Sports Coaching, the author has been developing a deeper understanding of the meaning of Spirituality. It has become apparent to the author the value of stillness, peace, meditation; specifically the pursuit of the presence of the Holy Spirit has created a need to be still and know that he is God in a more exclusive and yet, intimate way through the Song of Songs. Through St Ignatius practices, it is apparent that the practice of meditating and prayer, repentance, and a genuine submission to God can lead to a rather rich Spiritual Christian journey. In the next few reflections we hope you can grasp the height, depth and width of how much God’s love covers a multitude of sins, and how we can all gain access to the Holy Spirit through the one who saves. Cleveland helps us to explore these wonderful and profound Spiritual truths with the Awakening Love of our Redeemer Jesus Christ. The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius can be very hard to study, reflect upon, and implement without guidance. Cleveland identifies this issue and helps us to recognize the benefits of a Spiritual Director. Saint Ignatius himself states that in order to breakdown his exercises down “we need to permit the Creator to deal directly with the creature (us as mere humans) and the creature directly with the Creator and Lord.” This is also re-emphasized in the Song of Songs through the Bridegroom (the Christ) being available and willing to pursue the Bride (we the Church) through revelation and direct dialogue through prayer and petition. Song of Songs chapter one verse six states that “it is much more suitable….that the Creator and Lord himself should impart Himself to His devout soul, embracing her to His love and Praise, and disposing her for the way in which she can better hereafter serve him.” In serving God we can actualize our worth, not in the need for us to have self-fulfillment, but in fulfilling God’s plans for our lives. Often, we are distracted by our own ambitions, chasing our own life plan instead of God’s will for our lives. A better example is provided by the Virgin Mary, Jesus Mother, in response to the Angel informing her of Jesus birth and her role in that birth; she replies to this life-altering news saying, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord” (Luke 1:38). Mary reminds us of our humanity in contrast to Gods divinity in her desire to serve the Lord. In Luke 1:46-48 Mary declares her desire to serve the Lord; to honor, exalt, and glorify his name because God “looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.” Mary here shows us how to humble ourselves. Through her relationship with Christ she shows us the very nature of a humble Christian as the Virgin Mary. This is clearly evidenced through her willingness to follow the instructions of the angel and to believe that she would bare a child conceived through the Holy Spirit as Jesus Christ. Our relationship, between us as the Bride of Christ, as the Church, in the Song of Songs also reveals this to be our ultimate goal, humble Christians in service. This is also in the Spiritual Exercises which “lead us into the same direct union with the Lord.” Cleveland does not specifically mention our chosen reflective verse, but he does provide an insight into the Song of Songs verses 8:5-7, just before our chosen passage. Cleveland encourages us to seek to pray with a heart to become solely reliant upon the Lord as our bridegroom without dependence upon anyone else. In response he provides a cross reference to Saint Ignatius Spiritual Exercise number 353 and highlights that the Church should be reliant upon Gods love, for he loved us first, and that his love is an all consuming fire. As the Church we should be willing to die to ourselves and live solely for him. In conclusion, to get through various different mental and Spiritual states of desolation or consolation, we must go through purification, illumination and union with Christ our bridegroom in order to overcome all our difficulties and enhance our Spiritual lives and change our human perspective. Fourth Reflection - All Together Beautiful A Study of the Song of Songs The author of our fourth Reflection Heidi German has written a devotional for women to study in pursuit of finding their own inner worth, value and identity in Christ. Based on her own experiences of disbelief, doubt, fear and anxiety towards both her inner and outer beauty Goehmann confesses how she doubted her own parents, spouse and God when reflecting upon her own beauty. She desired to know more, to have more and to be more as a result of herself pity and self doubt that would cause her so much pain and hurt. However, the Song of Songs seems to have brought our author some redemption and enabled her some time to overcome the difficulty of earning other people’s appreciate and instead can fully trust in Jesus name . In the context of marriage the Bible teaches us that we shall become one flesh (Genesis 3:24) and in the devotional Goehmann points out to us that the reason there is only very few characters in the story is because the main characters in the story are the story. That the Bride of Christ the Church and Jesus as the Bridegroom reflect the key and core message of the story within the Song of Songs. Goehmann suggests that married couples should have friends supporting them like fellow Christians should have them being cheered on and supported through difficult and trying times. Loving one another (John 13:34-35), helping each other to learn and grow (Romans 15:14) and carrying each other burdens (Galatians 6:2). The encouragement we require to sustain ourselves through the test, trials and tribulations of our Christian life are real, we must lean on others, but also lean our Lord our God. In the teachings of Jesus commandments he states the first and most important law is to the love the Lord your God, with all your heart, all your strength and all your might. This is not easy, possible on your own and must be nurtured through relationships with others, but mainly through your relationship with God. Our prayer lives are then paramount for our Christian survival. We, as Christians, must develop our own Spiritual lives to support one another through prayer, community and spiritual practices. Often we may underestimate the little things such as starting the day with prayer, taking a moment to read the daily office at noon, revising the lectionary and reciting the verses or even more fundamental forming ourselves into Gods likeness. Something which should be every Christian’s pursuit every day. Unlike our three previous reflections Goehmann declares the identity of their Song of Songs to be different from the Bride as being the Church and the Bridegroom being Christ. Indeed theologians and scholars invariably also offer different characters in this intimate roles between bride and Christ. Goehmann speculates that it is Solomon who is the bride groom and although the identity of the bride is unknown she believes that it would be Shulammite women who would have been one of Solomon’s many wives. This may have been Pharaoh’s daughter, but again this would only be an assumption and the evidence to support this idea is strong, but still we don’t have manuscripts or interpretations with the exact characters from this story. Contrastingly to the main focus of her book, Goehmann includes a reflection from her husband and his reflections of a “Man’s take on the Song of Songs”. Now Goeffmann is exploring both the role of the bride and the bridegroom in pursuit of seeking to gain a neutral perspective. Pastor David Goehmann, the author’s husband, reflects upon his own weaknesses identifying his imperfections and the need to t