As a lily among brambles, so is my love among maidens. (v. 2)

Song of Songs 2: 1-4 Tuesday 8 December 2020

Psalm 45


Today’s reading was chosen to celebrate ‘The Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ which does not concern the conception of Jesus (celebrated on 25 March) but rather that of his mother Mary, in the womb of his grandmother, Saint Anne. There is a subtle debate between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches about the precise nature of this conception. It results from the doctrine of ‘original sin’. Keen to remove any trace of human ‘stain’ from the DNA of Jesus, Catholic teaching has long maintained that God intervened at the time of Mary’s conception, so that she was born without original sin, and was completely pure when she conceived Jesus. The Orthodox Church largely disagrees with the need to remove such a ‘stain’.

Whether we think original sin is something to be concerned about, we surely miss the point if we dwell on the technicalities.

Our reading is from the Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs), which is the closest the Bible comes to erotic poetry. This particular passage is part of an exchange between ‘the lover’ and ‘the beloved’. It is a beautiful and intense expression of mutual affection, desire and delight. This intimate relationship has often been likened to the love between Christ and his Church (the bridegroom and the bride), or even God and creation. In either case, God in Christ is undoubtedly the ‘lover’ and we are the ‘beloved’. In this passage, the lover speaks verse 2, while the beloved voices verses 1, 3 and 4.

So God views us as being “like a lily among brambles”. What a vivid image! In a world of thorns and sin, some things blossom that are precious and set apart. They are made holy not because of their position, history or inherent value, but because of the love that sees and delights in them.

So, today, you might like to raise a glass to the love that created you – both human and divine. Thank God for faithful people like Mary and her faithful parents, who pass their love from one generation to the next. Or simply give thanks because you are loved and are holy, and ‘stains’ that we carry will be washed away in the fullness of the love of Christ.

To Ponder:

  • Try reading some verses from the Song of Songs and imagine it as a conversation between Christ and the Church. How does this make you feel?
  • Now try imagining it as a conversation between God and creation? What questions does this raise for us?
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