Song of Songs in the Spirit of Our Mother

Fr. Krzysztof Bardski
Song of Songs
in the spirit of Our Mother

1:1. The Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s1.
It’s a song of love. The ancient biblical author gave us a wonderful poetic expression of the love of two young persons. But this love has a deeper meaning when we read the text as part of the Bible, as Word of God. The tradition of Israel and the Church read this poem as the most beautiful poem about the love of God. The words of the Bridegroom are words of Jesus to His Church and to every soul, they are also words of God to Mary whom He has chosen to become the Mother of His Son. The words of the Bride are the answer of the Church and Mary to the love of God. They are also a call to me and to you to answer wholeheartedly to the love of Jesus.
Let us contemplate the mystical wedding of Jesus and His Church2, of the perfect soul and the Word of God3. Let us penetrate into the inmost chamber of the Holy of Holies, as St. Gregory of Nyssa called the Song of Songs4.

1: 2a. Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
The girl desires the kiss of her beloved. The Church and my soul wishes to be kissed by Jesus. Our Lady received the kiss of God since the first moment of Her existence: the immaculate conception.
In the ancient tradition of Israel the kiss of God symbolizes the gift of the Torah to Moses on the mount Sinai5. But the Torah was just the beginning. Our real Moses was about to come. Therefore the People of God is calling with hope: Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth! Let him come personally! For a long time He was speaking to us through the prophets and angels, but now, let Him come6 and give the kiss that brings peace between God and mankind7.
We shall ask Our Lady to obtain for us the grace to surrender ourselves totally to the kiss of Jesus from the cross transforming us into our true selves – the princesses of the Kingdom of God. Yes! The kiss of Jesus is His kiss from the cross! “The more we empty ourselves, the sweeter will be the kiss of Jesus from the cross”8.

1:2b. For your love is better than wine,
The wine is a symbol of love, but here we have something better than any kind of love we can find on earth: Your love, the love of Jesus is better than any love. God is love9.
The expression of God’s love is his Word given to us. The Midrash says that the wine in a barrel is becoming better and better as the years go by – much more the Word of God in the human heart! The wine changes the human behavior – much more the Word of God in the human heart! The wine gives joy – much more the Word of God!10 For St. Ambrose the visible expression of the love of God are His gifts to the Church, the Sacraments, that are better than any worldly pleasure11.
Charity is divine love poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us12. The characteristic of this quality of love, which is not just human love, is selflessness: it shares in the selfless giving of God’s love13.

1:3a. Your anointing oils are fragrant,
The anointment in ancient Israel was connected with the mission of priest or king. In the Church it recalls the Holy Spirit. The fragrance of Jesus is the Spirit He sent to us and the sacramental gifts He confers14.
Jesus is giving His Spirit to the Church. He also has given His Spirit to me and to you in the baptism and confirmation. The Spirit working in the Church through our Society is a Spirit of unity in diversity. He gives different gifts, but all for greater unity in the loving plan od God15. The wonderful fragrance of Jesus is the perfume of His Spirit in the holiness of His saints. But there is another fragrance of Jesus: the delicate scent of the poorest of the poor, lepers, ulcerous, dying… unsupportable smell from the human point of view, but precious for God. The perfume of the cross.

1:3b. Your name is perfume poured out; therefore the maidens love you.
The girl of the biblical poem desires her beloved with all the senses of her body: the touch – kiss, the taste – wine, the smell – oils, and now the hearing – the name.
For the ancient Israelites the name of God was the essence of the holiness. Even the second commandment was issued in order to preserve the sanctity of the Holy Name. St. Paul says the name of Jesus has the same spiritual power: “God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the Name which is above every name”16.
What does it mean the name has been poured out? Nilus contemplates in this verse the mystery of the Incarnation: from the eternity the Son was in the bosom of the Father, but in the history he was “poured out” becoming man17. Ambrose and Bernard of Clairvaux see in this verse the call to evangelization: as long as the perfume is enclosed in a vase, it gives no smell, but poured out – it diffuses its fragrance all around18.
To listen and to repeat the Name of Jesus is something fantastic. Peacefully and lovingly we shall call out unceasingly the saving Name of Jesus, breathe in and out His healing Name, ponder deeply on, and taste the sweetness of this Name, listen to the sound of this Name ‘Jesus’ and let our hearts leap for joy, pray in the powerful Name of Jesus relying entirely on His promises and His tender and personal thoughtfulness for us19.

1:4a. Draw me after you, let us make haste. The king has brought me into his chambers.
The hidden desire of the Bride became reality. The Beloved has come and he revealed Himself as King! He took her hand and they began to run. Their aim was to reach the place of a perfect intimacy: the royal chamber.
Jesus said: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mt 16,24). But to follow Jesus we need the grace of God, our own forces are not enough20. The first one who followed Jesus in such perfect way, says Alanus de Insulis, was the Virgin Mary. And He drew Her with body and soul to the ultimate place of happiness21.
The love of Christ impels us (2Cor 5,14). Jesus calls us to follow Him in haste. We have just the present time to answer to His call. We have no influence neither on the past nor on the future, but only the present moment in our hands. By trusting Him He introduces me into his chambers. Faith, a gift of God introduces us into the spiritual reality of the kingdom whose coming was announced by Christ. It grows in obedience to His law and expresses itself by fraternal charity. Finally it is sealed by fidelity and confidence, for “we know in whom we have placed our faith” (2Tim 1,12). It is He who grants to those that believe in Him to do greater things even than those He Himself did on earth (Jn 14,12). Where are the chambers of the King? Where is He drawing me in haste? As Missionaries of Charity we are especially called upon to see Christ in the appearance of Bread and to touch Him in the broken bodies of the poor22. The chapel and the dwelling of the poor are the chambers of Jesus.

1:4b. We will exult and rejoice in you; we will extol your love more than wine;
In the chamber of the King love finds its fulfillment, that is joy. But it is not a simple and selfish joy. It is the joy “in You”. You are the source and the reason for our joy: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (J 15,11).
Where is that chamber of the King, source of joy? The Fathers indicate to us the final goal of our life, our heavenly homeland23. But according to Origen we can reach already in this life the innermost chamber of Jesus, when He reveals to us the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col 2,7)24. This chamber is His own Body, the perfect union with Him25, especially in the mystery of His passion26.
Joy is indeed the fruit of the Holy Spirit and a characteristic mark of the Kingdom of God, for God is joy. Christ wanted to share His joy with His apostles. “That my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (Jn 15,11). Joy was the strength of Our Lady, too. Only joy could have given her the strength to go in haste over the hills of Judea to do the work of a handmaid for her cousin27. “We will exult and rejoice in you”: we, not “I”, because cheerfulness is our joy shared with all God’s creation28.

1:4c. Rightly do they adore you.
Adoration is closely connected with love. The Hebrew text in this verse can be translated: “rightly do they love You”. During the meeting with the young people in Köln in 2005 the Pope Benedict XVI explained a specific etymology of the Latin word adoro. It is composed of ad (to) and os, oris (mouth). To adore means to kiss in the mouth. Our meditation of the first stanza of the Song of Songs began with the desire of the Bride to kiss her Beloved. Now the time has arrived. Let us come and kiss Jesus adoring Him in his Eucharistic presence.
“The closer we understand the living Bread the more fervent is our adoration”. To adore Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament is an extraordinary gift, “let not your going in and out of the chapel be just in and out, but a love meeting with the living God to whom you belong in a special way – His spouse to the full meaning of the word”29.

5 I am very dark, but comely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the curtains of Solomon.

Dark skin was a sign of hard work and low social position. The skin of the Bride is not delicate as the skin of those who live in rich palaces. Yet she is beautiful because her Beloved loves her30! The tents symbolize the instability, continuous being on the way; the curtains of Solomon are the external protection of the Temple. They are exposed to wind and rain.
As missionaries we have no fixed and quiet place on earth. The spiritual and apostolic fruitfulness of our Society will depend on our deliberate choice of simple and lowly means in the fulfillment of our mission31.

6 Do not gaze at me because I am swarthy, because the sun has scorched me.

The Fathers said that the Church is dark and beautiful because she is exposed to the rays of the Sun of Justice, Jesus Christ32, and also because she suffered the heat of persecutions and all kind of distress for the sake of His Name.
We are called to participate in the suffering and death of Jesus. The Cross will be for us as it was for Christ: proof of the greatest love (Jn 15:13). Jesus alone, God made Man, could fully understand the meaning of sin and suffer from it. The force with which Christ was drawn to His Cross, in expiation for the sin of mankind, must urge us as Spouses of Jesus Crucified to accept voluntary nailing with Christ on the Cross, in a spirit of love, obedience and reparation for our own sinfulness and that of the world, especially our poor33.

My mother’s sons were angry with me; they made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard I have not kept!

The Bride is pure and innocent yet even her brothers do not understand her love. In spite of all she remains faithful to the One who took possession of her. Her own vineyard is her heart that belongs only to Jesus.
With Jesus our Saviour, lamb led to the slaughter (Is 53:7), and with our poor, we will accept cheerfully and in the spirit of faith all the chances He makes especially for us: those of misunderstanding, being looked down on, failure, disgrace, blame, lack of virtue and correction34.

7 Tell me, you whom my soul loves, where you pasture your flock, where you make it lie down at noon;

The Bride relies only on her Beloved. She wants to be always with Him, to listen to His voice35, to work with him sharing his labour as a shepherd and to rest at His side in the heat of midday. She wants to tell Him: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters”36. In hope we rely utterly on the omnipotence of Him who said: “Without Me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5).
Persuaded of our nothingness and with the blessing of obedience, we attempt all things, doubting nothing, for with God all things are possible (Mk 10,27). We will allow the good God to make plans for the future, for yesterday has gone, tomorrow has not yet come and we have only today to make Him known, loved and served. Grateful for the thousands of opportunities Jesus gives us to bring hope into a multitude of lives by our concern for the individual sufferer, we will help our troubled world at the brink of despair to discover a new reason to live or to die with a smile of contentment on its lips37.

for why should I be like one who wanders beside the flocks of your companions?

Without her Beloved she feels alone and helpless. She needs only Him. She looks for Him wandering beside the flocks of other shepherds.
With regard to God, our poverty is our humble recognition and acceptance of our sinfulness, helplessness and utter nothingness, and the acknowledgement of our neediness before Him, which expresses itself as hope in Him, as an openness to receive all things from Him as from our Father38.

8 If you do not know, O fairest among women, follow in the tracks of the flock,

Jesus Christ, who is the Way Himself (Jn 14:6), shows us the way and leads us. He calls us to go out of our limitations and follow Him39. “Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father’s house, and the king will desire your beauty”40. Frequently the pope Francis invites us to undertake the journey, to set on the way41.
In our life, it is connected with the vow of obedience. Our call to obedience is the keen thirst of Jesus, the Word of God, our Teacher to lead us through the direction of the Holy Spirit our Counselor, and our Lady, the Seat of Wisdom our guide, to the experience of the deep secrets of His Heart42.
To follow the tracks of the flock means in the first place to follow the footprints of the Shepherd, Jesus, but also of those who followed Him in a perfect way: The Virgin Mary, the Apostles, the saints that lived throughout the ages, the footprints of our dearest Mother Teresa. Some Fathers say that we can find the footprints of God in all the creatures that enjoy the gift of Divine Providence43.
Our vow of obedience is our response to the call of Christ. This evangelical counsel, undertaken in the spirit of faith and love in the following of Christ, who was obedient even unto death, obliges submission of our will to lawful Superiors44.

and pasture your kids beside the shepherds’ tents.

The Bride is not alone. There is a small flock of kids entrusted to her care. Yet she cannot assist them by herself. She needs the proximity of the shepherds’ tents that ensures safety, pasture and protection.
There are people God entrusted to our care: the poor people we assist, those who asked us for prayer. In a special way in the slums the sisters should find a place where they will gather the poor and little street children, whoever they may be. Their very first concern is to make them clean, feed them, and then only teach them, according to syllabus, and so prepare them for admission into regular schools.
On Sundays and days of obligation, the sisters shall gather their own group and take them to the nearest Church45. Thus they will pasture their kids beside the shepherd’s tents!

9 I compare you, my love, to a mare of Pharaoh’s chariots.

The literary context indicates that the reason for such comparison is the beauty of the ornaments of the Bride. But Jewish and Christian traditions read this verse in relationship with the slavery of Israel in Egypt46. God has freed His people opening the waters of the Red Sea. Jesus liberated us from the slavery of Satan47, sin and death through His Passion and Resurrection.
Among the poorest of the poor are the people enslaved by addiction – drugs, alcoholism, sex, etc. As Jesus took upon Himself the sins of the mankind, let us follow Him taking upon ourselves the sufferings of the poor. Our life of penance is the great thirst of Jesus to draw us into His broken and bleeding Heart through the pierced Heart of His Mother to experience His own passion, death and resurrection for the salvation and sanctification of the whole world specially those who are on the verge of being eternally lost48.

10 Your cheeks are comely with ornaments, your neck with strings of jewels.

The cheeks of the Bride are adorned with rich earrings and on her neck there are strings of pearls and gems. She is beautiful, because she listens to the Word of God (ears) and is obedient (neck) to fulfill His will.
Consecrated obedience is the gift of God to us that opens our hearts to listen to His Word spoken through His creatures and to do it joyfully in the spirit of Our Lady – “Be it done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38) – so that the plan God has for the world through us as individuals and as a Society be fulfilled49. St. Ambrose says the yoke of Jesus is sweet if we consider it as an ornament and not as a burden50.

11 We will make you ornaments of gold, studded with silver.

The Bride has nothing. All her ornaments are the gift of the Beloved. He already gave her strings of jewels and now He wants to give her even more – ornaments made out of precious metals like gold and silver51. The real love finds its expression in generosity. Love is the desire to share everything with the beloved person.
Christ, who being rich became poor and emptied Himself to work out our redemption, calls us to share in His poverty so that we might become rich through His poverty52.

12 While the king was at his table, my nard gave forth its fragrance.

The king Jesus invites the Church and each one of us to His table where He gives us His Holy Body and Blood as spiritual food and drink. As the answer to His invitation and a natural reaction she gives forth the fragrance of sanctity and of good deeds. ”Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume”53.
Holy Mass is the prayer of our day, where Jesus makes our offering with His Church one with His Sacrifice and offers us all to His Father. To make our lives true sacrifice of love, we will consciously and actively enter into the spirit of Eucharistic Sacrifice, and offer ourselves with Christ to be broken and given to the poorest of the poor54.

13 My beloved is to me a bag of myrrh that lies between my breasts.

The girls in ancient Israel carried a small sachet filled with myrrh powder in a hidden place between the breasts to avoid unpleasant smell. But myrrh has a special meaning in the biblical symbolism. The Body of Christ was treated with myrrh at His burial. Hence the ancient tradition of the Church connects this verse with Christ’s passion55. The Church has the memory of the Lord’s passion in her heart, between her breasts56. She meditates and proclaims57 His Passion day and night.
Our community should take its share in the Passion of Jesus and welcome suffering, in any form, as a tremendous force to renew itself and to become more sensitive to the suffering of our poor whom we are called to love and serve as community. When we are lonely or feel unwanted or set aside or misunderstood, let us accept to be willing victims of another sister’s limitations, selfishness or lack of thoughtfulness58. Thus we carry in our body the sufferings of Christ (2Cor 1:5) and meditate His infinite love even on the cross (Phi 2:8).

14 My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms in the vineyards of Engedi.

The oasis of Engedi, at the shore of the Dead Sea, has several springs, many orchards, gardens and palm forests. It is a place of eternal spring. Together with the intense fresh fragrance of henna blossoms it calls to mind the new life, the Resurrection of Christ59. In the tradition of the Church, the Passion of Christ was always contemplated in the light of the Resurrection. The verse 13 should be read together with 14.
Therefore we must not forget that the aim and the end of our community life is always the Joy of the Resurrection and the new life in Christ and gradually to come to realize the truth of: “Oh! How good and delightful it is to live as sisters all united” (Ps 34:1), for we do believe in the communion of saints here on earth and in the life to come60.

15 Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves.

The dove in the eyes of Christ is the symbol of simplicity, humility and innocence61. He said to his disciples: “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Mt 10:16). Such is also the way we should labour at the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor, by living the love of God in prayer and action in a life marked by simplicity and humility of the Gospel62.

16 Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly lovely. Our bed is green;

As the Church is beautiful in the eyes of Christ, also Christ is beautiful in the eyes of the Church. “You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever”63.
The bed is the place of special intimacy between the lovers. Jesus expressed the fullness of His love on the Bed of the Cross64. But this bed is green, because finally it is not a place of death but of Resurrection. Let us open our hearts to the intimacy of His love as Spouses of Jesus Crucified65.

17 the beams of our house are cedar; our rafters are pine.

The words and images used in the poem make allusion to the Temple of Jerusalem. In ancient Israel it was a place of God’s dwelling among His people.
Our Temple is the Risen Christ (Jn 2:19). His Body is the Church. By baptism, we enter Him to adore the Father in Spirit and in truth, and so our whole life is one of worship66. We become part of the living Temple of the Church. According to some Fathers the cedars symbolize the steadfast and virtuous Christians while the pines (in some translations: cypresses) the wise and merciful67.

2:1 I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.

The two flowers the Bride mentions to present herself have deep symbolical meaning. The red rose is connected with love and the white lily calls to mind the chastity and the trust in the Divine Providence68. The Church loves her Saviour with all her heart and at the same time is pure, “in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:27). All splendor and beauty of the lily comes from the Lord: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they neither toil nor spin”69
By the vow of Chastity, we commit ourselves to live a celibate life in the fervour of charity and the perfection of chastity. We are convinced that complete continence is neither impossible nor harmful to human development because, in our maturity and delicacy of our vocation as women, we love Christ with a deep and personal love, expressed in our love for our sisters, our poor and the world in which we live70.

2 As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the maidens.

To stress the beauty of His Bride, the Beloved compares her to the fruitless thorns and brambles. What a contrast! Delicate lily and sharp brambles! But this is the Church in the middle of the world. She is proclaiming the Gospel to sinners and outcast, to thieves, prostitutes and evildoers. “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mk 2:17).
People are hungry for God. We shall go freely in the Name of Jesus to towns and villages all over the world, even amid squalid and dangerous surroundings, with Mary the Immaculate Mother of God, seeking out the spiritually poorest of the poor with God’s tender affection. We shall proclaim to them the Good News of salvation and hope, singing with them His songs, bringing to them His love, peace and joy71.

3 As an apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the young men.

Another contrast. A fruitful apple tree and fruitless forest trees. Jesus Christ is the tree that brings fruits of salvation, especially thanks to His Cross72 and Resurrection.
By His Incarnation Jesus entered into a community of sinners, accepting to be both divine and human, spirit and body, with the limitations of space, time, size and change, yet growing in age, wisdom and grace73. “He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phi 2:6-7).

With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste,

In the shadow of Christ we find safety and comfort74. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is the time to sit in His shadow and to taste the sweetness of His presence among us75.
One hour daily adoration before the Blessed Sacrament exposed gives us one more opportunity to sit at His feet in communion with the Lord to whom we belong. We use this time to deepen our faith, love, gratitude and reparation76.

4 He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.

Christ nourishes and cherishes His Church (Eph 5:29). He brings us to the banqueting house here, on earth, and gives us His Body and Blood as spiritual nourishment. And He is inviting us to the eternal banquet in the house of His Father77.
His love is a visible sign, as the banner that identifies the military unit. By religious consecration, a special dress becomes the sign of our consecrated love for God and the Church. It will express also our dedication to the world’s poor78. Our presence on the streets of cities and villages is a visible banner of Christ’s love in the midst of this world.

5 Sustain me with raisins; refresh me with apples, for I am sick with love.

The resins are made out of vine grapes. This reminds us of the wine that becomes Blood of Christ in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The apples remind us of the apple tree from verse 2:3. The Beloved gives his Bride abundant and delicious nourishment. He is giving us not only the Eucharistic food, but strengthens us with lots of spiritual gifts79.
We shall have half an hour’s spiritual reading daily together, as a community, for the proper nourishment of our minds and spirit, to help us grow in prayer, contemplation and service80.

6 O that his left hand were under my head, and that his right hand embraced me!

The left hand of Christ is His love that supports the Church, gives her safety, peace and wisdom. His right hand is His power and might that govern the history in a providential way81.
We trust in God’s tenderest concern for us and His fidelity to His promises in the Gospel, hence we trust in His Divine Providence for all our necessities and those of our poor82.

7 I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the hinds of the field, that you stir not up nor awaken love until it pleases.

The love of God needs silence in our souls. Jesus himself is the Lord of our hearts and He knows the right time to awaken love, that it may grow, work and bring fruits.
Our silence is a joyful and God-centered silence; it demands of us self-denial and plunges us into the deep silence of God where aloneness with God becomes a reality83.

8 The voice of my beloved! Behold, he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills.

Jesus takes the initiative and comes to us. “God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us”84. In every Eucharist He leaps upon the mountains and bounds over the hills to work the miracle of Communion with us. Let us listen to the voice of our Beloved in the Scriptures and welcome Him in His Sacramental Presence.
Humble love and pardon for one another should be our best preparation to receive the gift of Christ’s Body in Holy Communion so that, growing in love and union with Him, we may be able to radiate His life through us85.

9 My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, there he stands behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice.

Jesus comes to us. He is really present in the middle of us. Yet his presence is hidden, veiled. Only in the house of the Father we shall see Him face to face. Here, on earth, He is standing behind our wall, gazing in at the windows, looking through the lattice. He is hidden in His human Body86, in the Eucharist, in His Word87, in the community of the Church, and in the disguise of the poorest of the poor.
As missionaries of Charity we are called to quench the infinite thirst of Jesus by accepting all suffering, renunciations and even death as means to understand better our special call to love and serve Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor88.

10 My beloved speaks and says to me: Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away,

Jesus calls us to come out, to give up our quiet and safe life and to undertake the risk of the mission. This is the call of Jesus to the missionary life, to become carriers of God’s love, ready to go in haste like Mary, in search of souls89. Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor speaks and says to me: “Arise and come, I thirst”.

11 for lo, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. 12 The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Eccl 3:1). God knows the right time for everything and gives us signs to discern it90.
Just as the rigorous winter prepares the way for spring, penance prepares us for the sanctity of God, filling us with His vision and love. It makes us more and more sinless and attunes us to the work of the spirit within us, bringing our whole being under the powerful influence of Jesus. It plunges us into the deep contemplation of God91.

13 The fig tree puts forth its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.

Every day hard work is part of the life of every man and woman, especially the poor. They are frequently exploited, not paid, abused. Jesus submitted Himself to the common law of labour and the common lot of the poor92. Following Him we will labour hard in any and every work assigned to us by our Superiors, and rejoice when we have the opportunity to do the humble work in the Society. We will do our own household duties with joy and deliberately choose to live the life of hardship, privation, insecurity and empty-handedness of the life of Jesus and that of the poor. We will not seek any special privileges or treatment for ourselves, but be happy to be treated as one of the poor, ready to be insulted, ill-treated, refused or put to all kinds of inconveniences or falsely blamed. We shall not seek to defend ourselves, but leave it to the Lord to do it93.

14 O my dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the covert of the cliff,

The rock symbolizes God. “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer” (2Sm 22:2). As Jesus Christ was the true God, the clefts or fissures of the rock recall to mind in the tradition of the Church His precious Wounds. We prey: “In Thy wounds hide me, let me not be separated from Thee”.
The dove finds protection in the clefts of the rock. The Church and each of us finds the intimacy with God in the glorious Wounds of His Son. We need silence to be alone with God, to speak to Him, to listen to Him, to ponder His words deep in our hearts. We need to be alone with God in silence to be renewed and to be transformed. Silence gives us a new outlook on life. In it we are filled with the energy of God Himself that makes us do all things with joy94. This divine energy gives us the strength to go out and proclaim His love to the whole world.

let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is comely.

Jesus wants to listen the voice of His Church and contemplate her face. According to the traditional interpretations this voice sounds in twofold way. First, when we proclaim the Good News and bear testimony of His love95. Second, in the liturgy, especially as we share in the greatest honour given to Christ’s Spouse to sing the praises of God by praying the morning and evening hours daily96.

15 Catch us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.

In the middle of the joyful festival of the nature there appear these little foxes that damage the beauty of the vineyards. The vineyards are our communities and the little foxes are our vices and sins97. We should guard against the temptations that break up community. One of these foxes is partiality and selfishness. Another fox is the formation of groups according to race, language, colour, education, status. One little fox more is criticism, grumbling and rush judgement of the actions and motives of others. Or failure to respect another’s need for solitude and privacy98. Let us catch the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vineyards!

16 My beloved is mine, and I am his; he pastures his flock among the lilies.

I belong only to my Beloved and He belongs only to me. The most short and explicit confession of love, like the words of Jesus “Abide in me and I in you”99. The Church belongs only to Jesus and He is her unique husband. He is the Good Shepherd and He leads His flock to the fresh pasture of pure love100.
Given within the Church, consecrated chastity witnesses to the reality of that wondrous marriage established by God on this earth, to be fully manifested in the world to come and in which the Church has Christ for her only Spouse101. Given on “behalf of the Kingdom” (Mt 19:12) it frees the heart in a unique way and causes it to burn with love for God and mankind102. To be reborn with the power of God’s own purity and beauty, we must feel the need for a deep, personal love for Jesus103.

17 Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle or a young stag upon rugged mountains.

Especially when shadows of discouragement and troubles come upon our life, we call to Jesus, our Beloved, to return to us and to be with us, even on the rugged mountains of our despair and sadness.
In times of difficulty we will pray for the faith and the strength to accept and to do the will of God. Above all, we should refrain from all criticism, prejudice or murmuring against Superiors as well as from all servile fear and self-seeking104.

3:1 Upon my bed by night I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him, but found him not.

The Bride seeks the presence of her Beloved day and night. She feels the lack of Him in the solitude of the night105. Show me, O Lord, Your face! “Hide not thy face from thy servant!” (Ps 69:17). If we refuse to see His face in our brothers and sisters, it is because of our selfishness, lack of faith, pride or false expectations.
We need to be pure of heart to see Jesus in the person of the poorest of the poor. Therefore, the more repugnant the work, or the more disfigured or deformed the image of God in the person, the greater will be our faith and loving devotion in seeking the face of Jesus and lovingly ministering to Him in the distressing disguise106.

2 I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets and in the squares; I will seek him whom my soul loves. I sought him, but found him not.

Don’t be discouraged, O beautiful Bride! To seek the face of your Beloved is to be already with Him in the depth of your heart. Even if you are still looking for Him107, He has already found you.
We are called to be contemplatives in the heart of the world by seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, everywhere, all the time, and His hand in every happening. Especially seeking and adoring the presence of Jesus in the lowly appearance of Bread and in the distressing disguise of the poor. By praying the work, that is, doing it with Jesus, for Jesus, and to Jesus108.
I will rise now and go about the slums of Calcutta and favelas of Rio de Janeiro, in the streets of Manhattan and in the squares of Moscow; I will seek Him whom my soul loves.

3 The watchmen found me as they went about in the city. “Have you seen him whom my soul loves?”

Here the watchmen of the City of God may symbolize the ecclesiastical authorities. They keep the order inside the city and protect it. They should know where to find the Beloved109.
In our apostolic action, as members of the diocesan family, we will willingly and lovingly subject ourselves to the authority of the local Bishop in all the various activities which have to do with the exercise of our apostolate110.

4 Scarcely had I passed them when I found him whom my soul loves. I held him, and would not let him go until I had brought him into my mother’s house, and into the chamber of her who conceived me.

Thanks to the watchmen the Bride has found the One whom her soul loves. Now she wants to cling to Him and remain with Him, like Mary Magdalene111. She wants to share with Him every moment of her past, present and future life, even from the very moment of her conception!
Our vow of chastity liberates us totally for the contemplation of God and the wholehearted and free service of the poorest of the poor. By it we cleave to Jesus with undivided love, so as to live in Him, for Him, by Him, and with Him as our sole guide; to be invaded by His own holiness and filled with His own Spirit of love; to show forth the luminous face of Jesus, radiant with purity and love of the Father and mankind; to make reparation to God for all the sins of the flesh committed in the world today112.

5 I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the hinds of the field, that you stir not up nor awaken love until it please.

The silence and aloneness with God makes love grow and unites us with the Beloved more deeply. God is the friend of silence. His language is “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10). He requires us to be silent to discover Him. In the silence of heart God speaks.
Jesus spent forty days in silence before beginning His public life. He often retired alone, spent the night on the mountain in silence and prayer. He who spoke with authority spent his early life in silence.
The Word of God is speechless today. In the Eucharist His Silence is the highest and truest praise of the Father. It is the adoration of God113.

6 What is that coming up from the wilderness, like a column of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with all the fragrant powders of the merchant? 7 Behold, it is the litter of Solomon!

Our king Solomon is Jesus Christ “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3). The Church carries Him through the centuries and continents to all men and women. The smoke symbolizes the presence of true God, the myrrh – His Passion114 and Resurrection for our salvation, frankincense – His intercessory power as the only Priest of the New Covenant, and the fragrant powders – the multitude of graces and sanctification He showers upon us.
Let our souls, as missionaries, be consumed with one desire, Jesus, keeping His interests continually in our hearts and minds, carrying our Lord to places where He has not walked before115.

About it are sixty mighty men of the mighty men of Israel, 8 all girt with swords and expert in war, each with his sword at his thigh, against alarms by night.

From the historical point of view these sixty mighty men are the bodyguards of the king. Our King is Jesus and we, men and women of His people, are surrounding His litter and ministering to Him116. Each one of us has “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Eph 6:17). His Word indeed is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart”117.
Whenever we have an opportunity to proclaim the Word of God, we shall do it with joy. We shall let Our Lady speak the Word of God through us, which is the sword of the Spirit, and not our words. “Words that do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness” (Mother). We shall have no arguments or quarrels or discussions with anyone. We shall simply share our faith humbly with those who are hungry118.

9 King Solomon made himself a palanquin from the wood of Lebanon. 10 He made its posts of silver, its back of gold, its seat of purple; its interior was wrought within with love by the daughters of Jerusalem.

The palanquin was made to meet all the needs of the monarch. Our Solomon, Jesus, is carried in His spiritual litter and proclaimed to all the world: the whiteness of Lebanon (hebr. “laban” means white) symbolizes the purity of the Church, the silver – Her teaching, gold – wisdom, purple – martyrdom of Her members. But the most important is the love that fills the Church inside.
The task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church119 in obedience to Christ’s command to “Go and preach to all nations” (Mk 16:15). The Church, moved by the power and love of the Holy Spirit, wishes, through us, to prepare a way for the Lord, and in some way make Him present to all peoples by prayer, works of penance, word and action120.

11 Go forth, O daughters of Zion, and behold King Solomon, with the crown with which his mother crowned him on the day of his wedding, on the day of the gladness of his heart.

The Mother of our king Jesus, the Virgin Mary, crowned Him with the human body on the day of His wedding, the Incarnation121, when divine and human natures became one in the person of Christ. Through Jesus, invisible God became visible, and the Holy Spirit was poured upon us. Let us come and contemplate this great mystery together with Mary.
We are called in a very special way on behalf of the poorest of the poor to remain immersed together with Mary in the contemplation of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, in their love for one another as well as in their love for us, manifested in the great marvels of creation, redemption and sanctification122.

4:1 Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful! Your eyes are doves behind your veil.

The dove is also a symbol of the Holy Spirit (Lk 3:22). The eyes of the Church reflect the inner presence of the Spirit. At the same time they symbolize the simplicity and innocence123. Yet they are behind a transparent veil that protects them like the veil of the tabernacle protects the Eucharistic presence of Christ.
The tabernacle in our chapels is covered with a thin, white, transparent veil, reminding us that we, too, should be transparent so that others may “look up and see only Jesus”124.

Your hair is like a flock of goats, moving down the slopes of Gilead.

Jesus is the head of the Church (Eph 5:23, Col 1:18). Those who are rooted in Christ are the saints. As the hairs are countless, in the same way the multitude of saints is immense125. They are like the flock of the good Shepherd moving down the slopes of Gilead.
We will ask Our Lady to give Jesus to us and to help us to keep Him always in our hearts through humility, love and compassion126. The more we abandon ourselves to Her totally and without reserve, the greater will be the number of great saints in our Society, for nothing is impossible for those whose Mother She is127.
An old Christian tradition considered saints all those who gave their life for Christ. Officially we can pray through the intercession of Our Dearest Mother, but privately also through the intercession of our sisters killed in Sierra Leone, Yemen…

2 Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes that have come up from the washing, all of which bear twins, and not one among them is bereaved.

The teeth of the Bride are compared with white sheep. They are like twins – it means every tooth from the upper mandible has his correspondence in the lower mandible and no tooth is lacking. The Bride is perfect.
The Church, Bride of Christ is perfect, pure and without blemish. Ancient traditions connected this verse with the sacrament of baptism (the washing)128, the defense of the true faith (the teeth may serve to bite the enemy) and with the preaching of the Word of God, because the teeth make possible the oral communication.
We ask the Lord to “preach without preaching”, because the living example is the best testimony of the love of God. Yet our Mother reminds us that it shall be our utmost endeavour to proclaim Jesus Christ to all nations also by words when opportunity offers129.

3 Your lips are like a scarlet thread, and your mouth is lovely. Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil.

For the ancient Israelites scarlet was a very valuable textile and pomegranate a delicious fruit, containing inside many small particles. Both remind of the colour of the blood, therefore the ancient tradition interpreted this verse in this way: Jesus is praising the lips of His beloved Church because she proclaims His passion, death and resurrection130. Also the particles forming the pomegranate represent many particular Christian communities united in the body of the universal Church.
In the light of the spirit of our Mother we could also connect the lips and cheeks of the Bride with the call to proclaim Jesus through joy and smiling. The Missionary of Charity is a soothing smile of God that warms all hearts131.

4 Your neck is like the tower of David, built for an arsenal, whereon hang a thousand bucklers, all of them shields of warriors.

The military comparison is contrasting with the former image of delicate lips and cheeks. Yet it has a deep meaning. The Church is on the frontline of the battle against Satan, sin and human despair. Let us “take up the shield of faith, with which we can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one”132.
The literal meaning of the shields and bucklers calls to mind the rich ornaments, necklaces and strings of jewels adorning the Bride. From Song 1:10-11 we know these ornaments are gifts of the Beloved. Compared to military items they remind us that all the means of our spiritual fight are given to us by the Lord and it is He who protects and defends us.
The Mother encourages us in our spiritual battle not to allow ourselves to be disheartened by any failure as long as we have done our best. Neither do we glory in our success, but refer all to God in deepest thankfulness133.

5 Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle, that feed among the lilies.

The breasts symbolize the motherhood. The lilies call to mind the chastity. Motherhood and chastity meet in the beautiful mystery of the Virgin Mary. She is the perfect icon of the Church – our mother. The motherhood of Mary leads us to contemplate the motherhood of the Church and to participate in it134.
The vocation of every woman is to be a mother. The Missionary of charity is called to become a mother for those who long for love, the spiritually poorest of the poor. In her call she fulfills and puts into practice the motherhood of the Church at the example of Our Lady.
As we are fully confident of her loving concern for the needs and sufferings of others, we will inspire in the hearts of our poor full confidence in our Lady, the Mother and Hope of the poor. We will also fly to Her for help when the work for souls is hard. She will obtain for us the strength to open to Jesus hearts until then closed135.

6 Until the day breathes and the shadows flee, I will hie me to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense.

The Beloved runs to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense. He goes in haste because the day is about to finish. He goes there first and then He will call His Bride after Him. Both places are connected with beautiful smell, but at the same time they have a deep spiritual meaning.
Myrrh reminds us of the death of Christ. His body was treated with myrrh at the burial136. Frankincense symbolizes a sacrificial offering. On the altar of the temple of Jerusalem every day frankincense was burnt. The death of Jesus is a perfect offering for our sins. In Him all the victims of the ancient alliance acquired a full and eternal sense.
Jesus accepts his mission of salvation and in full obedience to the Father climbs the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense, but as a matter of fact they are the hill of Golgotha. We are also called to share in the obedient listening of Christ to all manifestations of the will of His Father in people, events and things. This obedience implies our readiness with Christ to say “Yes, Father” at every moment that it becomes clear to us what His will is, both as regards the Society and each of us137.

7 You are all fair, my love; there is no flaw in you.

Jesus looks with admiration and love at His Bride. The apostle Paul expresses the same as he says that “He might present to Himself the Church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that She should be holy and blameless” (Eph 5:27). Yet all Her beauty comes from Him, because it is He who created the mankind in His image and likeness and He restores that beauty in the sacrament of baptism138.
Jesus looks with the same love at each one of us, because we are created in the image and likeness of God with a natural power to know and love God as human being139. Our answer is the contemplation of God in prayer, because He is the One who first contemplates the work of His hands, concluding that all he created was good.

8 Come with me from Lebanon, my Bride; come with me from Lebanon.

Lebanon means in Hebrew “the white mountain”. The snow covering its peaks in winter is shining, reflecting the light of the sun. As we follow Jesus to the mountain of myrrh and the hill of frankincense that symbolize Golgotha, now – through contemplation – we are with him on Lebanon that symbolizes the glory of the resurrection140.
But Jesus does not want us to stay idle and do nothing. He calls us to come with Him to the valleys and to bring from the top of Lebanon the light of the resurrection to all the disheartened. As Missionaries we must be burning lights that give light to all men141.

Depart from the peak of Amana, from the peak of Senir and Hermon, from the dens of lions, from the mountains of leopards.

With Jesus we depart from Lebanon, but at the same time He calls us to depart from so many other places. To abandon the peak of Amana, the peak of Senir and Hermon. What is the meaning of these hills?
In the ancient Christian tradition the mountains had several symbolical meanings. Beside the positive sense of a place near to heaven, connected with Tabor and Golgotha, there is also a negative meaning: the mountain symbolizes the pride and superiority. Especially in this verse that mentions wild animals like lions and leopards. They signify our will of domination, control of others and power. Let us abandon these squalid places and follow the humility of Christ142. He was anxious that we learn from Him that one lesson, to be meek and humble of heart (cf. Mt 11:29). He allowed His heart to be opened. We must become small to be able to enter His heart143.

9 You have ravished my heart, my sister, my Bride.

The holy Heart of Jesus! So tender and delicate to be ravished out of love for us sinners! From the depth of His Heart He calls his Church “my sister, my Bride”. Let us answer wholeheartedly to the call of Jesus that resounds in our ears during every Holy Mass.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is closely linked with the Eucharist and has a special place in our Society144.

You have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.

Just a glance of the eyes of the Bride had such a powerful impact on the heart of the Beloved. Contemplation of Jesus brings His Heart to the heart of each one of us. We contemplate Him in His miraculous presence in the Holy Eucharist, but also we contemplate Him as we visit the chapel. A loving glance at the Tabernacle ravishes the heart of Jesus!
On entering and leaving the house – says our Mother – we make a visit to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. We make frequent visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament each day145.

10 How sweet is your love, my sister, my Bride! how much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice!

In the Holy Land wine mixed with water was used to quench the thirst. The Beloved can’t live without the love of the Bride as nobody can live without drinking. Her love is quenching his thirst better than any wine.
The thirst of Jesus is to love those for whom He gave His life on the cross. Our call to wholehearted and free service of the poorest of the poor is the unquenchable thirst of Jesus to love through us all the poorest of the poor, especially the weakest, the most unloved, rejected and despised by all, in the community and outside, by giving us His own Heart filled with tender, compassionate, and merciful love146.

11 Your lips distil nectar, my Bride; honey and milk are under your tongue; the scent of your garments is like the scent of Lebanon.

The whiteness of Lebanon and the whiteness of the frankincense produced from the resin of special trees (laban – white; lebunah – frankincense). As the Bride enters the chamber, the sweet scent of her garments fills the room and inebriates the Beloved.
Our presence in the middle of the world fills with the scent of love even the most squalid environments. The religious dress consisting of a simple and modest white cotton habit and a white cotton sari with blue border147 are the scent of Lebanon that spreads around the love of Jesus.

12 A garden locked is my sister, my Bride, a garden locked, a fountain sealed.

Throughout centuries the tradition of the Church connected this verse with Our Lady148. God has chosen Her to be the mother of His Son. He loved Her in a special way. She was that garden locked reserved only to the Most High. The fountain sealed became the symbol of Her virginity149.
Also our spiritual and apostolic fruitfulness depend on our tender love and intimate union with Our Lady, the Spouse and channel of the Holy Spirit150. We will ask Her, the fountain sealed who stood beneath the cross when Jesus revealed the profound truth of infinite thirst of God for us to reveal to us a little the unfathomable depth of this Divine Thirst151.

13 Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates with all choicest fruits, henna with nard, 14 nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense, myrrh and aloes, with all chief spices, 15 a garden fountain, a well of living water, and flowing streams from Lebanon.

The Church and her perfect icon – Our Lady – are beautiful as a garden full of precious plants. This image calls to mind the diversity and richness of the local churches forming one universal Church152. Different rites, habits and traditions are as nard, saffron, calamus, cinnamon. But in the middle there is a garden fountain, a well of living water. Jesus spoke about rivers of living water flowing from the heart of those who believe (John 7:38).
One of the characteristics of the Missionaries of Charity is the spirit of contemplation. To be contemplative by gathering the whole universe at the very centre of our hearts where the Lord of universe abides, allowing the pure water of Divine grace to flow plentifully and unceasingly from the source itself on the whole of creation153.
This pure water satiates the deepest thirst of every human being, the thirst for love.

16 Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its fragrance be wafted abroad. Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits.

In the Hebrew and Greek languages the same word is used for wind and spirit (hebr. ruach; gr. pneuma). Therefore the wind becomes a perfect symbol of the Holy Spirit154. Jesus compares the Spirit to the wind that blows where it wishes (John 3:8).
The Holy Spirit blowing upon the garden of the Church wafts abroad the fragrance of her sanctity to bear testimony of the presence of Jesus in the middle of her. We shall also allow the Holy Spirit to take full possession of our lives. Filled with the Spirit of Jesus, we shall have but one aim in life: to spend ourselves without ceasing to proclaim the Father’s love155.

5:1 I come to my garden, my sister, my Bride, I gather my myrrh with my spice, I eat my honeycomb with my honey, I drink my wine with my milk.

Jesus is the Lord and Master of the garden of the Church and of the garden of the soul of each one of us156. To Him belongs the myrrh of the martyrdom, the spice of the virtues and the honey of the proclamation of the Word of God; the wine of the mature Christians that satiate their thirst at the altar of the Eucharist and the milk of those who make their first steps on the road of faith.
Also in our lives the service means an unceasing and wholehearted labour in making the garden of our soul available to Jesus so that He may live, in and through us, His life of infinitely tender, compassionate and merciful love for the spiritually and materially poorest of the poor157.

Eat, O friends, and drink: drink deeply, O lovers!

Jesus is not entering alone into the garden of our soul. He invites his friends and satiates their thirst158. Who are the best friends of Jesus? – The poorest of the poor, materially and spiritually, irrespective of caste, creed or nationality; the hungry; the thirsty; the naked; the homeless; the ignorant; the captives; the crippled; the leprosy sufferers; the alcoholics; the sick and dying destitute; the unloved; the abandoned; the outcasts; all those who are burden to human society; those who have lost all faith and hope in life; all hardhearted persistent sinners; those under the power of the evil one; those who are leading others to sin, error or confusion; the atheists; the erring; those in confusion and doubt; the tempted; the spiritually blind, weak, lax and ignorant; those not yet touched by the light of Christ; the hungry for the Word and peace of God; the difficult; the repulsive; the sorrowful; the souls in purgatory; and every Missionary of Charity by accepting to live the life of evangelical poverty and by the very fact of being sinners159.

2 I slept, but my heart was awake. Hark! my beloved is knocking.

Jesus is first coming to us and knocking on our hearts. Let us be awake and with lighted lamps, because the Bridegroom is coming160. John Paul II insisted: Do not be afraid, open the gates widely to Christ! We learn contemplation by placing ourselves before Christ and asking Him to send us His Holy Spirit to teach us how to contemplate161.

“Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect one; for my head is wet with dew, my locks with the drops of the night.”

We contemplate Jesus Himself in the mystery of His mystical Body, that is the Church162, and in the Word of God, as the Logos in His pure divinity in the prehistory and in the Word Incarnate on earth in the history of salvation163.

3 I had put off my garment, how could I put it on?

Let us come out of our laziness and dress ourselves to minister to Jesus. Let us begin our day with the Liturgy of the Hours and the Holy Mass. Let us join Christ in the worship and contemplation of the Father for His glorification and for the sanctification of men164.

I had bathed my feet, how could I soil them?

In the baptism we bathed our body and soul in the Blood of Christ165. In the mystery of reconciliation God restores the purity of the new life in Christ. The Holy Spirit teaches us how to contemplate through the sacraments, humbly and lovingly welcoming the Triune God in the depth of our very being, continuing in us the divine and eternal contemplation166.

4 My beloved put his hand to the latch, and my heart was thrilled within me.

We contemplate Jesus in a special way through the Eucharist, as the risen Lord really present before us167. The Holy Communion is the very moment when our hearts thrill within us.

5 I arose to open to my beloved, and my hands dripped with myrrh, my fingers with liquid myrrh, upon the handles of the bolt.

The fingers of the apostle Thomas touched the wounds of Jesus and he believed168. Day by day our fingers touch the rosary, the prayer book of the little ones and the breviary of the poor, presenting to us the great mysteries of redemption and sanctification169.

6 I opened to my beloved, but my beloved had turned and gone. My soul failed me when he spoke. I sought him, but found him not; I called him, but he gave no answer.

We seek the face of Jesus in contemplation in so many ways. Not only the one mentioned above, but also as He speaks to us through the Constitutions, as the very Will of God for us; as He turns and goes to put on the distressing disguise of the poorest of the poor; as we call Him in the depth of our hearts, as the indwelling divine presence; as we open to Him our lives to receive God’s tender and personal love for us, His children; and as we look for Him in the creation, as the beauty, majesty and splendor of the Father170.

7 The watchmen found me, as they went about in the city; they beat me, they wounded me, they took away my mantle, those watchmen of the walls.

Jesus out of love for us was stripped of His garments, endured the flagellation and the wounds of the nails. His Bride, the Church, follows Him and suffers in a similar way. We too are called to imitate our Lord and Master.
My dear children – said our Mother – without our suffering, our work would just be social work, very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Jesus Christ, nor part of the Redemption. Jesus wanted to help us by sharing our life, our loneliness, our agony and death. All that he has taken upon Himself, and has carried it in the darkest night. Only by being one with us has He redeemed us. We are allowed to do the same: all the desolation of the poor people, not only their material poverty, but their spiritual destitution must be redeemed, and we must share in it171.

8 I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my beloved, that you tell him I am sick with love.

The Bride sends her friends, the daughters of Jerusalem, to seek everywhere for her Beloved and deliver to Him the message of love.
A missionary is one sent with a mission, with a message to deliver. Just as Jesus was sent by His Father, we too are sent by Him (John 17:18) filled with His Spirit to be witnesses of His Gospel of love and compassion, in our communities first, and in our apostolate among the poorest of the poor all over the world172.

9 What is your beloved more than another beloved, O fairest among women? What is your beloved more than another beloved, that you thus adjure us?

There are so many religions, cultures, traditions… Why Jesus is so unique, special? Is He really our only Saviour? Are other religions wrong?
We shall not impose our Catholic Faith on anyone, but have profound respect for all religions, for it is never lawful for anyone to force others to embrace the Catholic Faith against their conscience.
However, we shall pray for the gift of faith for them and whenever opportunity offers to speak to them the Word of God, we shall not let it pass173.

10 My beloved is all radiant and ruddy, distinguished among ten thousand.

The colours attributed to the Beloved are expressed in the ancient translations as white and red. They symbolize His divinity and humanity174, purity and passion175, or make allusion to the sacraments of baptism (white) and Eucharist (red).
Jesus is all radiant and He calls each one of us to be His co-workers by allowing Him to radiate and live His life in us and through us in the world of today, so that the poor seeing us may be drawn to Christ and invite Him to enter their homes and their lives; the sick and suffering may find in us real angels of comfort and consolation; the little ones of the street may cling to us because we remind them of Him, the friend of the little ones176.

11 His head is the finest gold; his locks are wavy, black as a raven.

The Bride looks at the face of her Beloved. We contemplate the face of Christ, who being rich (gold) became poor and emptied Himself to work out our redemption177. He calls us to bear witness to the true face of Jesus – poor, humble, and friend of sinners, the week and the despised – and to the Church of the poor whose mission is to preach the Gospel to the poor178.

12 His eyes are like doves beside springs of water, bathed in milk, fitly set.

The Bride looks deeply into the eyes of her Beloved. Their eyes meet each other and penetrate deeply into their hearts. Even when He is absent, she feels the sweetness of His sight.
The eyes of Christ will be constantly looking at our eyes. We will embrace joyfully all the sacrifices involved in constantly living in the presence of God and doing whatever we are doing as an act of perfect love and worship of God179.

13 His cheeks are like beds of spices, yielding fragrance. His lips are lilies, distilling liquid myrrh.

The lips of Jesus spoke the mysteries and wonders of His teaching, they reveal in a special way His love expressed by His death and resurrection180. Through His lips He reveled to us the Kingdom of God. Let us become the lips of Jesus for the world of today. A Missionary of Charity is God’s own language of love that all hearts understand181.

14 His arms are rounded gold, set with jewels.

With His hands Jesus cured the sick, opened the eyes to the blind, expelled the evil spirits… The jewels on his arms are the grace and love of God manifested especially when his hands have been nailed to the cross182.
Today we give to Jesus our hands. Let Him use our hands when we do our humble work with gratitude and profound reverence in a spirit of fraternal sharing, convinced that in accepting our humble service, the poorest of the poor make our existence as Missionaries of Charity possible183. We proclaim Jesus to all nations, especially to those who are under our care, by our humble deeds of love184.

His body is ivory work, encrusted with sapphires.

The precious Body of Christ bears for the eternity the signs of His love for us: blessed wounds on His hands and feet, similar to sapphires185.
We contemplate His Body in the mystery of the Church, in the Word of God, in the poorest of the poor, but in a special way we love Jesus under the appearance of Bread186, the little and humble Host, white and precious as the ivory.

15 His legs are alabaster columns, set upon bases of gold.

Where are the legs of Christ today? Where is He going with haste and love? He wants to use our legs to visit the destitute or the sick, going from house to house or wherever they may be found, even in jails, hospitals and the shut-ins187.

His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as the cedars.

The excellence of the mountains of Lebanon and the strength of the cedar wood symbolize the power, endurance and might. The Bride knows she can rely on her Beloved in every moment of her life.
Our loving trust in God implies trust in His almightiness, His wisdom and His unfailing love188.

16 His speech is most sweet, and he is altogether desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

The speech of the Beloved fills the memory and the heart of the Bride. Even when He is absent, His words remain within her. They remain until now in the Gospel189.
By feeding daily on the Scriptures, particularly the New Testament, we shall grow in a deeper and more personal knowledge and love of Jesus Christ and His teachings, so as to be able to feed His children with His Divine Word190.

6:1 Whither has your beloved gone, O fairest among women? Whither has your beloved turned, that we may seek him with you?

The Bride is not alone. The other maidens, the daughters of Jerusalem, want to listen about the Beloved and seek Him. She is not jealous because she trusts in His faithfulness. She shares with them her profound experience of love.
Through us, the Church truly wishes to encourage other Christians to live out the implications of their baptismal consecration, inspiring and upholding their response to Christ, and to give an increasingly clearer revelation of Christ who “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38) both to believers and non-believers alike191.

2 My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of spices, to pasture his flock in the gardens, and to gather lilies.

The lilies symbolize the purity and the holiness. Jesus leads His Church and each one of us, to pasture in the gardens of His love and He gathers the lilies of our devotion and charitable deeds.
Our religious consecration is a visible sign of the holiness of the Church in the perfection of charity. Through the power of the holy Spirit, communicated to us in the Liturgy and the Sacraments, we are called to radiate Christ’s life192.

3 I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he pastures his flock among the lilies.

The shortest and most concise description of love: I belong to Him and He belongs to me. Jesus gave Himself plainly for our salvation and He expects a wholehearted answer of each one of us. St. Peter gives us the example: “We have left all and followed You”193
Our religious life is a visible sign of the unbreakable covenant bond of the Church with Christ, Her Spouse194. We belong to Him and he belongs to us.

4 You are beautiful as Tirzah, my love, comely as Jerusalem, terrible as an army with banners.

The view of an army with banners ready for the battle inspires admiration and fear. The Church and each one of us is called to a spiritual combat for Christ in the spirit of love and trust in God’s assistance. Jesus is our leader, He defeated Satan in the combat of His death and resurrection.
One of the main fields of this battle is penance. The call to penance is a call to conversion from sin to God, from mediocrity to a life of fervour and generosity, from fervour and generosity to a life of sanctity. No contemplation is possible without asceticism and self-abnegation195.

5 Turn away your eyes from me, for they disturb me. Your hair is like a flock of goats, moving down the slopes of Gilead. 6 Your teeth are like a flock of ewes, that have come up from the washing, all of them bear twins, not one among them is bereaved. 7 Your cheeks are like halves of a pomegranate behind your veil.

For the second time the Beloved praises the beauty of His Bride. She contemplates Him and He looks with love at her. Yet He asks her to turn her eyes from Him. Jesus calls us to contemplate Him in darkness and to listen to Him in silence196. This interior silence involves all our body and soul.
To make possible true interior silence and to cultivate deeper interiority and aloneness with God, we shall practice:
Silence of the eyes, by always seeking the beauty and goodness of God everywhere, and closing our eyes to the faults of others and to all that is sinful and disturbing to the soul, for “a clean heart can see God”.
Silence of the ear, by listening always to the voice of God and to the cry of the poor and the needy, and closing our ears to all the other voices that come from the evil one or from fallen human nature e.g. gossip, tale-bearing, uncharitable words.
Silence of the tongue, by praising the Lord and speaking the life-giving Word of God that is truth that enlightens and inspires, bringing peace, hope and joy, and refraining from self-defence, strictly avoiding every lie, complaint, criticism and every word that causes pain, turmoil and death.
Silence of mind, by opening it to the truth and knowledge of God in prayer and contemplation like Mary who pondered the marvels of the Lord in Her heart, and closing our mind to all untruths, distractions, destructive thoughts such as rash judgements, false suspicion of others, revengeful thoughts and desires.
Silence of the heart, by loving God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength and one another as God loves, desiring God alone and avoiding all selfishness, hatred, envy, jealousy and bitterness197.

8 There are sixty queens and eighty concubines, and maidens without number.

In the ancient Israel monogamy was not the only way of family life. Also in other cultures the kings used to have numerous harems. This was the case of King Solomon to whom the Song of Songs is attributed.
Our King Solomon is Jesus and our community life unites us as a special family in Christ198. We proclaim Christ as Head of our family and rejoice in His presence among us.
The Eucharist is truly the centre of our community199, for in the Eucharist we receive Jesus who forms us, together with our Superior, into a community. Therefore, we do not choose our community but accept to form community with those with whom God has brought us together, chosen from eternity, accepted in time and united for eternity. Because of what Jesus has done to each one of us, we run the risk of rejecting God’s gift if we fail to accept our community or any sister in it200.

9 My dove, my perfect one, is only one, the darling of her mother, flawless to her that bore her.

But there is one who has a special place in this family of God. The One whom He has chosen to become the Mother of His Son201.
We take Mary as the Mother of our community and ask her to help us to make our community another Nazareth202.

The maidens saw her and called her happy; the queens and concubines also, and they praised her.

This special place of Our Lady in the community of the Church and in every Christian community, is an invitation for each one of us to choose the Immaculate Queen of Heaven for our Mother. We must not only love and venerate Her, but also to fly to Her with childlike confidence in all our joys and sorrows203.

10 “Who is this that looks forth like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun,

The Bride gathers in herself the beauty of the whole universe, the moon, the sun. In the Church Jesus sees the perfect image of the beauty of all creation. The Church is the sacrament of the communion of God with mankind and with the whole universe. Her brightness imitates the sun, that symbolizes Jesus204.
We too participate in this beautiful mystery of love in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. In union with the Mystical Body of Christ we gather in our very being the whole universe with all that is and has, and offer it to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of His Mother, so that He may purify and transform it into His own Body and Blood and offer it to the Father, the source of life, beauty and goodness205.

terrible as an army with banners?”

The community of the Church is at the same time like an army and like a family. Yet we do not fight against any human being, but as the Apostle says, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12).
As a religious community modelled on the first Christian community206, our first great responsibility is to be a community. By revealing to one another something of God’s own love, concern and tenderness, what it means to know and to be known, to love and to be loved, we become a sign of God’s loving presence in the world207 – “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if You have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).
We become also a sign of the deepest vocation of the Church which is to gather people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, redeemed by the Blood of Christ (cf. Rev 5:9) to form God’s family of love208.

11 I went down to the nut orchard, to look at the blossoms of the valley, to see whether the vines had budded, whether the pomegranates were in bloom.

As the Beloved is descending to His garden, in a similar way Jesus is humbly descending among us in his humanity209. He is coming with infinite tenderness and compassion. He is looking with joy at the spiritual fruits of His Church.
We will meditate frequently on the humility of Christ and pray to the Holy Spirit for light to know ourselves better, since self-knowledge leads to humility. Towards our sisters we will be tender and forgiving and count ourselves the least among the brethren. With our poor we will be gentle and compassionate210.

12 Before I was aware, my fancy set me in a chariot beside my prince.

The chariot symbolizes movement and dynamism. Jesus sends us to be apostles and to bring His Good News to the ends of the earth. Yet on the chariot of the apostolate we are together with Him211. He is the One who makes effective the work of the evangelization.
Apostolic action is always to proceed from intimate union with God, and is to confirm and foster this union212.

13 Return, return, O Shulammite, return, return, that we may look upon you.

Jesus calls His Church to a constant conversion213. Our condition of sinners makes us to go astray but – as our Pope Francis repeats frequently – God is never tired of forgiving us. It is His joy when we return to Him.
“I will arise and go to my Father and say: Father, I have sinned” (Lk 15:18). This is the spirit in which we desire to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It also reconciles us with the Church and with our community which we wound by our sins. We will make our confession with humility, simplicity, clarity and sincerity.
We shall receive the sacrament of penance not only for our reconciliation but also to obtain the grace of reconciliation with God and with one another for the whole sinful humanity214.

Why should you look upon the Shulammite, as upon a dance before two armies?

The dance is a visible, external expression of joy. That joy involves all senses, all parts of the human body. The dance of the Church radiates the joy of Christ all over the world.
Joy is a need and a power for us even physically, for it makes us always ready to go about doing good. “The joy of the Lord is our strength”215.

7:1 How graceful are your feet in sandals, O queenly maiden! Your rounded thighs are like jewels, the work of a master hand. 2 Your navel is a rounded bowl that never lacks mixed wine. Your belly is a heap of wheat, encircled with lilies. 3 Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle. 4 Your neck is like an ivory tower. Your eyes are pools in Heshbon, by the gate of Bathrabbim. Your nose is like a tower of Lebanon, overlooking Damascus. 5 Your head crowns you like Carmel, and your flowing locks are like purple; a king is held captive in the tresses. 6 How fair and pleasant you are, O loved one, delectable maiden!

For the third time the Bridegroom is praising the beauty of His Bride. The beauty of the Church comes all from Her likeness with Christ. Also the beauty of each one of us depends on our similarity with Jesus216.
We shall gladly allow Him to live in and through us His great love for the Father and the whole human race by accepting to have our hands wounded and worn out so as to bring His healing touch to the wounded and suffering; our feet to bleed and be weary to be able to walk the way of Jesus to preach the Gospel of His Thirst to the poorest of the poor; our knees to be bruised and calloused to be able to draw the mercy of God on sinners; our heads to be crowned with thorns to be able to set at peace and rest the care worn minds of those in anguish and pain; our hearts to be pierced to be able to bring understanding and love of God to the unloved; our bodies and spirits to be broken to be given for ransom of many, and our face to be disfigured to be able to reveal the beautiful face of the Son of God, who was without beauty, without majesty, no look to attract our eyes, a thing despised and rejected by man – a man of sorrow and familiar with suffering (Is 53:2-3).
“Remember we are wedded to Christ and so as we belong to Him, we must therefore share His passion also” (Mother)217.

7 You are stately as a palm tree, and your breasts are like its clusters. 8 I say I will climb the palm tree and lay hold of its branches. Oh, may your breasts be like clusters of the vine, and the scent of your breath like apples,

In Cant 2:3 the Beloved was compared to a fruitful apple tree. Now He compares His Bride to a palm bearing clusters of dates. The fruit of Christ was His salvation given us through the mystery of the cross. The fruits of the Church and of each one of us are the good deeds.
We bear fruits: feeding the hungry, not only with food, but also with the Word of God; giving drink to the thirsty, not only for water, but for knowledge, peace, truth, justice and love; clothing the naked, not only with clothes, but also with human dignity; giving shelter to the homeless, not only a shelter made of bricks, but a heart that understands, that covers, that loves; nursing the sick and dying, not only of the body, but also of mind and spirit218.

9 and your kisses like the best wine that goes down smoothly, gliding over lips and teeth.

The whole Trinity thirsts for us and for all His children as expressed by Jesus on the cross. We are called to satiate this thirst of Jesus on the cross for souls by our lives219. The wine symbolizes love and the kiss is the expression of love. To kiss Jesus ministering Him in the poorest of the poor means to give Him the best wine that satiates His thirst “gliding over lips and teeth”.

10 I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.

To belong to Jesus means to be in constant union with God in prayer220. At the same time He is longing for each one of us. He desires to cling in a perfect union to those who seek Him and discover His face in the face of the others.

11 Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the fields, and lodge in the villages;

Jesus calls each one of us to be His partners in loving service, with and like his Mother, by allowing Him to radiate and live His life in us and through us in the world of today, so that the poor seeing us may be drawn to Jesus through Mary and invite Him to enter their homes and lives221.
Come, Jesus, with me, let us go forth into the fields where men and women work hard, and let us lodge in the villages where they look for their safety, peace and happiness.

12 let us go out early to the vineyards, and see whether the vines have budded, whether the grape blossoms have opened and the pomegranates are in bloom. There I will give you my love.
In the vineyards of the mankind let us go forth in search of souls222. Some vines have budded because they are rooted in Christ. Some grape blossoms have opened because they received the healing presence of the Holy Spirit. Some pomegranates are in bloom, because they will bring the fruits of good deeds223.
Contemplating Christ let us go physically or in spirit in search of souls all over the universe224.

13 The mandrakes give forth fragrance, and over our doors are all choice fruits, new as well as old, which I have laid up for you, O my beloved.

With great love and care the Bride preserves all the best fruits for her Beloved225. All that is old, all the past and all memories; all that is new, all the present and the future, all hopes and expectations of her heart are focused on the Beloved.
We must guard our hearts, keeping them free, for a pure heart will easily see God in His poor and have no thought of self226. We will fully choose to keep our hearts pure and selfless, remembering the Indwelling Presence of the All Pure and Holy in our hearts227.

8:1 O that you were like a brother to me, that nursed at my mother’s breast! If I met you outside, I would kiss you, and none would despise me.

The Bride wants to express her love to the Bridegroom in the way she considers the best, by kissing Him228. But at the same time she knows others would despise her, because it wouldn’t be the proper behaviour in the eyes of the other members of her family and her neighbours.
As missionaries we would like to preach the love of Jesus everywhere and to everybody, but at the same time we must be ready to respect and appreciate unfamiliar customs of other peoples, their living conditions and language, willing to adapt ourselves if and when necessary229.

2 I would lead you and bring you into the house of my mother, and into the chamber of her that conceived me. I would give you spiced wine to drink, the juice of my pomegranates.

The Bride invites her Beloved to her life. She wants to share with Him even the very moment when she was conceived, the very beginnings of her existence. In this mystical intimacy she offers Him wine and juice to drink. She quenches His Thirst!
“I thirst” Jesus said on the cross when He was deprived of every consolation and left alone, despised and afflicted in body and soul (J 19:28).
As Missionaries of Charity we are called to quench this infinite thirst of Jesus – God made Man who suffered, died, yet rose again and is now at the right hand of His Father as well as fully present in the Eucharist230.

3 O that his left hand were under my head, and that his right hand embraced me!

Once more the Bride repeats the deep desire of intimacy expressed in Cant 2:6. She wants to rely only upon Him and she feels safe when His loving care touches her life231.
Every Missionary of Charity will pray with absolute trust in God’s loving care for us. Our prayer will be the prayer of little children, one of tender devotion, deep reverence, humility, serenity and simplicity232.

4 I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, that you stir not up nor awaken love until it please.

Tsst…! A deep experience of Divine Love requires silence. Interior silence and – if possible – exterior silence too. The love has its own rhythm of day and night, sleeping and being awake.
Each one of us will take it as our serious and sacred duty to collaborate with one another in our common effort to promote and maintain an atmosphere of deep silence and recollection in our own lives, conducive to the constant awareness of the Divine Presence everywhere and in everyone, especially in our own hearts and in the hearts of our Sisters with whom we live and in the poorest of the poor233.

5 Who is that coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?

The Beloved is the only support of the Bride. Even in the wilderness. Like Israel, relying on the Divine Providence, crossed the desert on its way to the Promised Land, in the same way the Church relies on the love of Jesus.
As Missionaries we must be fearless in doing the things He did and courageously going through danger and death with Him and for Him234.

Under the apple tree I awakened you. There your mother was in travail with you, there she who bore you was in travail.

The verse evokes the mother of the Beloved. The allusion to the apple tree turns our mind to the mystery of the Cross235. Let us contemplate through this verse the Virgin Mary at the foot of the Cross of Her Son. It was there She experienced the deep travail in her body and soul.
Devotion to Mary is the fruit of the Incarnation of Jesus. The Son of God became the Son of Man in Her. The Almighty became powerless and totally dependent on a human mother whom He loves most tenderly and with a very personal love. He has given Her to us at the foot of the cross to be our Mother, and calls us to love Her with a most tender and filial love and devotion236.

6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm;

Love is so tender, so delicate. It needs a strong support and confirmation. The Church wants to become a seal upon the heart and arm of Jesus, to witness firmly of His love and His might in front of the world237.
The best way to prove our love and gratitude to Mother Church is by striving sincerely and earnestly to be true witnesses of her holiness in the world through a loving, faithful observance of our Constitutions that trace out the way of life for every Missionary of Charity, remembering that the Church has set her seal upon them as a sure way of leading us to the perfect love of God and of neighbour, and of enabling us to make the Church fully present in the world of today238.

for love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave.

Authentic love never ends, never fails. The most precious example is the love of Jesus who offered His life for us on the cross239. His love is strong as death.
But also His love is jealous. There is no greater faithfulness than God’s faithfulness, and He is a jealous lover. God has chosen us. He also has a right to stop choosing us, but He will never do so of Himself, but only when we force Him to do so240.

Its flashes are flashes of fire, a most vehement flame.

Jesus came to cast fire on earth and would that it were already kindled (Lc 12:49). The fire of Jesus that enlightened all the earth through the preaching of the Good News was sent on the Apostles on the day of Pentecost241. The hearts of the disciples at Emmaus were burning when He explained to them the Scripture242.
A Missionary of Charity is a carrier of God’s love especially to the poorest of the poor, setting all on fire with love for Him and for one another243.

7 Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it.

Fire and water – the most powerful elements. They can bring life or death. They can help and damage, build and destroy. But the love of Jesus is stronger. Nothing can overcome His love for each one of us.
Do not be afraid. I have called you by your name, you are mine. Water (sin)244 will not drown you; fire (passion) will not burn you. You are precious to Me. I love you. I have carved you on the palm of My Hand. You are Mine245.

If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned.

Love has no price. Nobody can buy or sell love. If someone claims to do so – that means there was no authentic love. Jesus gave us His love for free, when we were sinners. We proclaim His love for free, without having or getting anything in exchange.
Our response to the call of Christ is our vow of poverty. This entails a life which is poor in reality and in spirit, sober and industrious, and a stranger to earthly riches. It also involves dependence and limitation in the use and disposition of goods246.

8 We have a little sister, and she has no breasts. What shall we do for our sister, on the day when she is spoken for?

She is small in the eyes of her brothers. Yet she is the one whom the Beloved has chosen. God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong (1 Cor 1:27).
Jesus anxious that we learn from Him through His Mother that one lesson: to be meek and humble of heart, allowed His Heart and the Heart of His Mother to be opened. We must sincerely desire to become little to be able to enter His heart through the Heart of Mary247.

9 If she is a wall, we will build upon her a battlement of silver; but if she is a door, we will enclose her with boards of cedar.

In spite of our littleness Jesus gives us strength. He protects us from discouragement and sadness and He enables us to fight selfishness and insensibility. According to St. Ambrose the Church is called “door”, because through her all nations have access to salvation248.
We should use this time to allow Jesus and His Spirit to renew or increase in us His love and life with the light and strength found in the Gospels, the teaching of His Church, the Constitutions of our Society, but above all in prayer and abnegation. Thus refreshed and nourished, we should return to labour more gladly and generously for Christ and His Church249.

10 I was a wall, and my breasts were like towers; then I was in his eyes as one who brings peace.

I leave You My peace, My peace I give You. Thanks to His gift of peace we become the channel of His Peace.
The clearest sign of growth and of the Gift of the Spirit in our community will be for us the deepening experience of true Peace which is the fruit of prayer, grateful openness to God, quiet acceptance and fidelity. It survives all difficulties, fatigue, criticism and rejection, allowing the pain of passion to believe in the joy of the resurrection250.

11 Solomon had a vineyard at Baalhamon; he let out the vineyard to keepers; each one was to bring for its fruit a thousand pieces of silver.

God entrusted the most precious mysteries of salvation to human hands. The Church. The Sacraments. His Word written and transmitted in the Bible. But above all His only beloved Son, Jesus. He entrusted Him to the Virgin Mary under the protection of St. Joseph.
Our spiritual and apostolic fruitfulness will depend on our deep love for St. Joseph and full confidence in his tender care and powerful protection and intercession for us251.

12 My vineyard, my very own, is for myself; you, O Solomon, may have the thousand, and the keepers of the fruit two hundred.

The vineyard of the Beloved is his Bride. She trusts Him and follows Him out of her love.
On the example of Jesus, who was entirely at the disposal of His Father, we offer ourselves entirely to His disposal, to be used by Him as it pleases Him without being consulted252.

13 O you who dwell in the gardens, my companions are listening for your voice; let me hear it.

Together with all Christians throughout the world we are listening to the voice of the Church. She is instructing us and leading us to clean springs of the doctrine in order to form in us the image of Jesus.
Reborn in Christ by water and the Spirit and established in the Church as a community of life in faith, hope and charity, we who enter into the mysteries of Christ’s life ought to be moulded into His image until He is formed in us253.

14 Make haste, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or a young stag upon the mountains of spices.

The Song ends here, but we look forward to follow Jesus in haste. He is preceding us upon the mountains that lead to heaven.
Let us go forth with Jesus nursing the sick and dying destitutes, gathering and teaching the poor and little street children, visiting and caring for beggars, leprosy patients and their children, giving shelter to the abandoned and homeless, caring for the unwanted, the unloved and the lonely, going out to the spiritually poorest of the poor to proclaim the Word of God by our presence and spiritual works of mercy, adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament254.
1 The biblical quotations are taken from: The Holy Bible. Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, San Francisco 1966 (Ignatius Bible).
2 Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, prol, 1, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.16.
3 Nilus Ancyrensis, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, prol. 3, M.-G. Guérard, SCh 403 (1994), p.118.
4 Gregorius Nyssenus, In Canticum Canticorum, 1, H. Langerbeck, Gregorii Nysseni Opera 6, p.22.
5 Cf. Targum Shir ha-Shirim, 1,2; The Song of Songs in the targumic Tradition, I, Jerusalmi, Cincinnati 1993, p.17.
6 Cf. Origen, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 1,1,7; L. B. Brésard, H. Crouzel, SCh 375 (1991), p.180.
7 Cf. Bernardus Claraevallensis, Sermones super Cantica Canticorum, 2,1,3, J. Leclercq, C.H. Talbot, H.M. Rochais, Bernardi Opera, vol.1 (1957), p.10.
8 Cf. Spiritual Directory of the Missionaries of Charity, Section B, 161b, p.100.
9 1Jn 4:8.
10 Cf. Midrash Shir ha-Shirim, 2,8,17-19; Midras Cantar de los Cantares Rabba, L.F. Girón Blanc, Biblioteca Midrasica 11,Pamplona 1991, p.72.
11 Cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, 1,7; p.24.
12 Cf. Rom 5:5.
13 Cf. Constitutions of the Missionaties of Charity, 19, p.11.
14 Cf. Gregorius Magnus, Expositio in Canticum Canticorum, 1,2, P. Verbraken, CCL 144 (1963), p.16; Beda Venerabilis, Allegorica expositio in Cantica Canticorum, 1,1,2, D. Hurst, CCL 119B (1983), p.192; Alcuinus, Compendium in Canticum Canticorum; PL 100,642C.
15 Cf. Constitutions, 72, p.48.
16 Phil 2:9.
17 Cf. Nilus Ancyrensis, 7; p.38-40.
18 Cf. Ambrosius Madiolanensis, 1,9; p.28; Bernardus Claraevallensis, 15,2,3; p.84.
19 Cf. Spiritual Directiry, Section B, 130, p.82.
20 Cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, 1,14; p.32.
21 Cf. Alanus de Insulis, In Cantica Canticorum elucidatio; PL 210,56A.
22 Cf. Constitutions, 27, p.17.
23 Cf. Beda Venerabilis, 1,1,3; p.194; Alcuinus, 1,3; 643C.
24 Cf. Origen, 1,5,4; p.244; Ambrosius Mediolanensis, 1,17; p.34.
25 Cf. Philo Carpasii, 7; Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.68.
26 Cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, 1,17; p.34.
27 Cf. Constitutions, 25, p.15.
28 Cf. Spiritual Directory, Section B, 25, p.57.
29 Cf. Spiritual Directory, Section B, 132, p.83-84.
30 The Church is dark, because of our sins, yet love of Christ makes her beautiful, cf. Hippolitus Romanus, Sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 4,1, version géorgienne trad. G. Garitte, CSCO 264, Louvain 1965, p.31; Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 1,22, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.38; Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 10, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.72. Before the coming of Jesus the gentiles were dark, after His coming they became beautiful because the Sun of Rightousness (cf. Mal 4:2) illuminated them, cf. Gregorius Iliberritanus, Tractatus de Epithalamio, 1,25; CCL 69 (J. Fraipont, 1969), p.177.
31 Cf. Constitutions, 6, p.4.
32 Cf. Hippolitus Romanus, Sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 4,2, version géorgienne trad. G. Garitte, CSCO 264, Louvain 1965, p.31; Origen, Commentario al Cantico dei Cantici, 8, Testi in lingua greca, M.A. Barbara, Biblioteca Patristica, Bologna 2005, p.158.
33 Cf. Constitutions, 160, p.88.
34 Cf. Constitutions, 30; p.18
35 According to Gregory of Elvira, the words “tell me” express the desire of the Church to be instructed by Jesus, to listen to the proclamation of the Gospel and the preaching of the name of Jesus by the Apostles, cf. Gregorius Iliberritanus, Tractatus de Epithalamio, 2,7; CCL 69 (J. Fraipont, 1969), p.182.
36 Ps 23:1-2. Cf. Origen, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 2,4,17-18; L. B. Brésard, H. Crouzel, SCh 375 (1991), p.340.
37 Cf. Constitutions, 28, p.17-18.
38 Cf. Constitutions, 51, p.34.
39 Jesus calls the soul “fairest” because she is on the way, she is progressing and ascending, cf. Origen, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 2,5,29; L. B. Brésard, H. Crouzel, SCh 375 (1991), p.370.
40 Ps 45,10-11. Cf. Justus Urgellensis, Explicatio in Canticum Canticorum, 14; PL 67,966C-D.
41 Cf. Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 20; Angelus, 1 December 2013, passim.
42 Cf. Spiritual Directory, Section B, 58, p.64.
43 Cf. Nilus Ancyrensis, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 20; M.-G. Guérard, SCh 403 (1994), p.176.
44 Cf. Constitutions, 59, p.39.
45 Cf. Constitutions, 112, p.65.
46 Cf. Origen, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 2,6,1; L. B. Brésard, H. Crouzel, SCh 375 (1991), p.382.
47 Before the announcement of the Gospel, the gentiles were slaves of Satan, cf. Gregorius Iliberritanus, Tractatus de Epithalamio, 2,24-26; CCL 69 (J. Fraipont, 1969), p.187.
48 Cf. Spiritual Directory, Section B, 160, p.98.
49 Cf. Constitutions, 58, p.38.
50 Cf. Mt 11,29-30; Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 1,43, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.54.
51 Silver may symbolize the gift of the Scripture given to the Church and gold the spiritual understanding of His Word, cf. Origen, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 2,8,15-16; L. B. Brésard, H. Crouzel, SCh 375 (1991), p.414-416.
52 2Cor 8:9. Cf. Constitutions, 49, p.33.
53 John 12:3. Origen puts together the two scenes, cf. Origen, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 2,9,3-7; L. B. Brésard, H. Crouzel, SCh 375 (1991), p.436-440.
54 Cf. Constitutions, 131, p.74.
55 Cf. Origen, Commentario al Cantico dei Cantici, 14, Testi in lingua greca, M.A. Barbara, Biblioteca Patristica, Bologna 2005, p.168; Nilus Ancyrensis, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 29; M.-G. Guérard, SCh 403 (1994), p.204; Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 1,45, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.56; Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 27, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.82.
56 Sometimes the “breasts of the Church” symbolize the Old and New Testament. The Pascal Mystery of Christ is announced by the prophets and fulfilled in New Testament, cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 28, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.82.
57 Cf. Justus Urgellensis, Explicatio in Canticum Canticorum, 20; PL 67,968A.
58 Cf. Constitutions, 77, p.50-51.
59 Cf. Nilus Ancyrensis, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 30; M.-G. Guérard, SCh 403 (1994), p.208.
60 Cf. Constitutions, 77, p.51.
61 Also allusion to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church, cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 32, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.84. The eyes of dove enable the Church to grasp the spiritual meaning of the Scripture, cf. Origen, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 3,1,4; L. B. Brésard, H. Crouzel, SCh 375 (1991), p.494.
62 Cf. Constitutions, 5, p.2.
63 Ps 45:2. Cf. Justus Urgellensis, Explicatio in Canticum Canticorum, 23; PL 67,968D.
64 Cf. Gregorius Iliberritanus, Tractatus de Epithalamio, 3,14; CCL 69 (J. Fraipont, 1969), p.196. The “green bed” symbolizes the intimate union of Jesus, the Divine Word, with the human soul, cf. Nilus Ancyrensis, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 36; M.-G. Guérard, SCh 403 (1994), p.224.
65 Cf. Constitutions, 144, p.78.
66 Cf. Constitutions, 129, p.73.
67 Cf. Nilus Ancyrensis, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 37; M.-G. Guérard, SCh 403 (1994), p.228-230. The cedars may symbolize the prophets and the cypresses the apostels, cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 34, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.86.
68 Cf. Mt 6:28; Nilus Ancyrensis, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 41; M.-G. Guérard, SCh 403 (1994), p.243.
69 Mt 6:8. Cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 36, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.88.
70 Cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 46; Constitutions, 45, p.29.
71 Cf. Constitutions, 119, p.68.
72 Cf. cf. Hippolitus Romanus, Sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 18,2, version géorgienne trad. G. Garitte, CSCO 264, Louvain 1965, p.39; Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 2,11, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.68.
73 Cf. Constitutions, 75, p.49.
74 Contrary to the shadow of death, cf. Origen, Commentario al Cantico dei Cantici, 19, Testi in lingua greca, M.A. Barbara, Biblioteca Patristica, Bologna 2005, p.178. The shadow of Christ may symbolize the Holy Scripture, cf. Origen, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 3,5,10; L. B. Brésard, H. Crouzel, SCh 375 (1991), p.528-530. The shadow may also symbolize the death of Christ and the fruit (apple) means His resurrection, cf. Gregorius Iliberritanus, Tractatus de Epithalamio, 3,23; CCL 69 (J. Fraipont, 1969), p.197.
75Allusion to the Eucharistic Presence of Jesus, cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 38, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.88. Jesus gives us also the fruit of the Spirit, that is joy and peace, Cf. Nilus Ancyrensis, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 44; M.-G. Guérard, SCh 403 (1994), p.252.
76 Cf. Constitutions, 132, p.74.
77 Cf. Nilus Ancyrensis, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 45; M.-G. Guérard, SCh 403 (1994), p.256.
78 Cf. Constitutions, 40, p.26.
79 According to St. Ambrose these gifts are the spiritual wisdom, similar to the manna from heaven and the Word of God, cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 2,16, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.70-72..
80 Cf. Constitutions, 135, p.75.
81 There are various interpretations of the passage. The left hand symbolizes the present care of God and the right (in front) his future gifts, cf. Nilus Ancyrensis, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 48; M.-G. Guérard, SCh 403 (1994), p. 260; Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 2,23, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.78. Cf. Justus Urgellensis, Explicatio in Canticum Canticorum, 32; PL 67,970C.The left hand is the first coming of Jesus and the right hand is His second coming, cf. Origen, Commentario al Cantico dei Cantici, 74, Testi in lingua greca, M.A. Barbara, Biblioteca Patristica, Bologna 2005, p.266-268. The left hand (behind) means the Old Testament, the right hand (in front) is the New Testament, cf. Gregorius Iliberritanus, Tractatus de Epithalamio, 3,29; CCL 69 (J. Fraipont, 1969), p.198-199.
82 Cf. Constitutions, 23, p.14.
83 Cf. Constitutions, 156, p.85.
84 Rom 5:8. The tradition frequently connects this verse with the incarnation of Christ, cf. Hippolitus Romanus, Sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 22,1-2, version géorgienne trad. G. Garitte, CSCO 264, Louvain 1965, p.42; Nilus Ancyrensis, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 54; M.-G. Guérard, SCh 403 (1994), p.274; Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 2,32, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.82.
85 Cf. Constitutions, 131, p.74.
86 Cf. Nilus Ancyrensis, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 56; M.-G. Guérard, SCh 403 (1994), p.284; Gregorius Iliberritanus, Tractatus de Epithalamio, 4,6; CCL 69 (J. Fraipont, 1969), p.200; Justus Urgellensis, Explicatio in Canticum Canticorum, 37; PL 67,971B.
87 Jesus hidden in the prophecies of the Old Testament, cf. Origen, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 3,14,21; L. B. Brésard, H. Crouzel, SCh 375 (1991), p.668. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 51, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.96.
88 Cf. Constitutions, 35, p.23.
89 Cf. Constitutions, 18, p.10.
90 According do St. Ambrose the winter was the time preceding Christ’s coming. He brought us the spiritual summer, cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 2,48, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.94. The rain may symbolize the temptations, cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 54, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.98. The end of rains calls to mind the end of the prophecies of the Old Testament and the arrival of Christ, cf. Origen, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 3,14,25; L. B. Brésard, H. Crouzel, SCh 375 (1991), p.670. According to others, the winter is the present time while the spring will be the second coming of Christ and the arrival of His Kingdom, cf. Gregorius Iliberritanus, Tractatus de Epithalamio, 4,15; CCL 69 (J. Fraipont, 1969), p.202-203; Justus Urgellensis, Explicatio in Canticum Canticorum, 40-43; PL 67,971D.
91 Cf. Spiritual Directory, Section B, 161a, p.100.
92 Cf. Vatican II, Perfectae Caritatis, 13.
93 Cf. Constitutions, 53, p.36.
94 Cf. Constitutions, 152, p.83.
95 Cf. cf. Hippolitus Romanus, Sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 19,3, version géorgienne trad. G. Garitte, CSCO 264, Louvain 1965, p.39; Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 2,56, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.100; In Ps. 118, 6,33.
96 Cf. Constitutions, 133, p.75.
97 We should subdue our vices and sins as they are “little” and not allow them to grow, Cf. Origen, Commentario al Cantico dei Cantici, 29, Testi in lingua greca, M.A. Barbara, Biblioteca Patristica, Bologna 2005, p.198; Nilus Ancyrensis, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 62; M.-G. Guérard, SCh 403 (1994), p.308.
98 Cf. Constitutions, 76, p.50.
99 Joh 15:4. Cf. Origen, Commentario al Cantico dei Cantici, 30, Testi in lingua greca, M.A. Barbara, Biblioteca Patristica, Bologna 2005, p.200.
100 The fresh pasture Jesus gives to the Church are also the sacraments and the Scripture, cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 2,67, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.108; In Ps. 118, 14,2-3.
101 Cf. Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 607, par. 1.
102 Cf. Constitutions, 44, p.28.
103 Cf. Constitutions, 47, p.30.
104 Cf. Constitutions, 66, p.42.
105 The Church seeks the face of Christ in the night, it means among persecutions, adversities, tribulations and pain, cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 3,4, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.114..
106 Cf. Constitutions, 70, p.46.
107 The Church is always looking for Christ in the Scripture; the streets symbolize the Pentateuch and the squares the Prophets, cf. Gregorius Iliberritanus, Tractatus de Epithalamio, 5,8-9; CCL 69 (J. Fraipont, 1969), p.208.
108 Cf. Constitutions, 148, p.79.
109 Other traditions connect the “watchmen” with the angels, cf. Nilus Ancyrensis, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 67; M.-G. Guérard, SCh 403 (1994), p.327; Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 3,8, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.116..
110 Cf. Vatican II, Ad Gentes, 30; Constitutions, 101, p.61.
111 Cf. Joh 20:16ss; Hippolitus Romanus, Sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 25,1-2, version géorgienne trad. G. Garitte, CSCO 264, Louvain 1965, p.45-46; Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 3,14, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.120.
112 Cf. Constitutions, 46, p.29-30.
113 Cf. Constitutions, 151, p.82.
114 Cf. Hippolitus Romanus, Sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 26,3, version géorgienne trad. G. Garitte, CSCO 264, Louvain 1965, p.50.
115 Cf. Constitutions, 18, p.10.
116 Cf. Nilus Ancyrensis, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 72; M.-G. Guérard, SCh 403 (1994), p.344.
117 Heb 4:12. Cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 3,27. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.128.
118 Cf. Spiritual Directory, Section B, 108, p.76.
119 Cf. Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14.
120 Cf. Constitutions, 99, p.60.
121 Some Fathers consider the death and resurrection of Christ as the “day of His wedding”, cf. Nilus Ancyrensis, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 77; M.-G. Guérard, SCh 403 (1994), p.361; Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 3,35, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.134; De Isaac, 5,45-46.
122 Cf. Constitutions, 147, p.79.
123 Ct. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 4,4, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.138; Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 89, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.122.
124 Cf. Spiritual Directory, Section A, 76, p.36.
125 Cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 90, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.124.
126 Mother’s Letter, August 1973.
127 Mother’s letter, 18 June 1972. Cf. Constitutions, 32, p.19-20.
128 Cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 4,16, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.146; De Mysteriis, 7,38-39; Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 91, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.124.
129 Cf. Constitutions, 6, p.4.
130 Cf. Origen, Commentario al Cantico dei Cantici, 35, Testi in lingua greca, M.A. Barbara, Biblioteca Patristica, Bologna 2005, p.212; Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 92, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.124-126.
131 Cf. Constitutions, 20, p.11.
132 Eph 6:16. Cf. Origen, Commentario al Cantico dei Cantici, 37, Testi in lingua greca, M.A. Barbara, Biblioteca Patristica, Bologna 2005, p.216.
133 Cf. Constitutions, 30, p.19.
134 The Church feeds the Christians with her breasts that symbolize the doctrine of the Old and New Testament, cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 98, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.128.
135 Cf. Constitutions, 16, p.9.
136 Cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 100, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.128-130.
137 Cf. Constitutions, 58, p.38.
138 Cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 101, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.130.
139 Cf. Constitutions, 145, p.78.
140 The white colour calls to mind the spiritual regeneration in the sacrament of baptism, Cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 102, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.130.
141 Cf. Constitutions, 18, p.10.
142 To abandon the royal palaces and the variety of sins, cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 104, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.132.
143 Cf. Constitutions, 30, p.18.
144 Cf. Constitutions, 139, p.77.
145 Cf. Spiritual Directory, Section B, 74f-g, p.35.
146 Cf. Spiritual Directory, Section B, 68, p.66.
147 Cf. Constitutions, 40, p.26.
148 The garden symbolizes also the Church, her garden fountain is the baptism, cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 4,34, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.158.
149 The seal is also a symbol of baptism, cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 111, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.134.
150 Cf. Constitutions, 6, p.5.
151 Cf. Spiritual Directory, Section B, 35, p.59.
152 The different plants symbolize also the variety of Christ’s gifts to the Church (cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 4,41, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.166) or the variety of virtues (cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 113, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.134)
153 Cf. Constitutions, 150, p.80-81.
154 Cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 116, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.136.
155 Cf. Constitutions, 19, p.11.
156 Cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 5,2, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.176..
157 Cf. Constitutions, 69c, p.45.
158 The Fathers connect this with the invitation to the sacraments of salvation (cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 5,7, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.180), especially the Eucharist with the words of Jesus “take and eat”, “take and drink” (cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 121, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.138).
159 Cf. Constitutions, 69d, p.46.
160 Cf. Mt 25:1ss; Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 5,21, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.188.
161 Cf. Constitutions, 149, p.79.
162 Cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 7.8.
163 Cf. Constitutions, 149, p.79. The night is the time of the resurrection, cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 127, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.138.
164 Cf. Constitutions, 149, p.80.
165 Cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 5,32, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.194; De Virginitate 10,57-59.
166 Cf. Constitutions, 149, p.80.
167 Cf. Constitutions, 149, p.80.
168 Cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 131, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.140.
169 Cf. Constitutions, 149, p.80.
170 Cf. Constitutions, 149, p.80.
171 Cf. Spiritual Directory, Section A, Ch.17, introd., p.38.
172 Cf. Constitutions, 18, p.10.
173 Cf. Constitutions, 108, p.64.
174 Cf. Origen, Commentario al Cantico dei Cantici, 46, Testi in lingua greca, M.A. Barbara, Biblioteca Patristica, Bologna 2005, p.226; Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 5,59, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.214; In Ps. 118, 5,8.
175 Cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 140, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.146.
176 Cf. Constitutions, 31, p.19.
177 Gold symbolized also wisdom. Christ is rich in wisdom and understanding (Col 2:3), cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 5,61, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.216.
178 Cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 8; Constitutions, 49, p.33.
179 Cf. Constitutions, 163a, p.90.
180 Myrrh as symbol of the passion of Christ, cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 5,67, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.218; De Virginitate, 13,81-82.
181 Cf. Constitutions, 20, p.11.
182 Cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 149, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.150.
183 Cf. Constitutions, 71, p.47.
184 Cf. Constitutions, 6, p.4.
185 The sapphires on the Mystical Body of Christ also symbolize the saints, Cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 150, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.152.
186 Cf. Constitutions, 5, p.3.
187 Cf. Constitutions, 113, p.65.
188 Cf. Constitutions, 23, p.13.
189 Cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 154, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.152.
190 Cf. Constitutions, 134, p.75.
191 Cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 44. 46; Constitutions, 34, p.22.
192 Cf. Constitutions, 34, p.21-22.
193 Mt 19,27. Cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 6,2, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.230.
194 Cf. Constitutions, 34, p.21-22.
195 Cf. Constitutions, 161, p.89.
196 Explaining this verse St. Ambrose says human soul is unable to support the fullness of His divinity and the splendour of the true light, cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 6,8, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.236.
197 Cf. Constitutions, 156, p.84-85.
198 Cf. Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 602. Queens may symbolize the instructed Christians, the concubines – the disciples that progress in the knowledge of God, the maidens – those who only believe in God, cf. Apponius, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 9,21; B. de Vregille, L. Neyrand, Paris 1998, t.3, SCh 430, p.32.
199 Cf. Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 608.
200 Cf. Constitutions, 73, p.48.
201 The verse is connected with the special role of the Virgin Mary in the story of salvation, cf. Apponius, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 9,30; B. de Vregille, L. Neyrand, Paris 1998, t.3, SCh 430, p.44.
202 Cf. Constitutions, 73, p.49.
203 Cf. Constitutions, 12, p.7.
204 Cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 175, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.162.
205 Cf. Spiritual Directory, Section B, 131, p.83.
206 Cf. Vatican II, Perfectae Caritatis, 15.
207 Cf. Vatican II, Ad Gentes, 15.
208 Cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 13; Constitutions, 74, p.49.
209 Cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 178, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.164; Apponius, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 9,36; B. de Vregille, L. Neyrand, Paris 1998, t.3, SCh 430, p.52.
210 Cf. Constitutions, 30, p.19.
211 Jesus is the driver of the chariot, cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 7,17, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.242; De Isaac, 8,65; De Virginitate, 94-96.
212 Cf. Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 675; Constitutions, 100, p.61.
213 Cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 184, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.168; Apponius, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 9,50; B. de Vregille, L. Neyrand, Paris 1998, t.3, SCh 430, p.66-68.
214 Cf. Constitutions, 136, p.75-76.
215 Neh 8:10. Cf. Constitutions, 25, p.16.
216 The head of the Church is Jesus himself. Eyes, ears, hairs are those Christians that are united in a special way with Him, cf. Apponius, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 10,22-35 B. de Vregille, L. Neyrand, Paris 1998, t.3, SCh 430, p.102-118.
217 Cf. Spiritual Directory, Section B, 160b, p.99.
218 Cf. Constitutions, 69c, p.45.
219 Cf. Spiritual Directory, Section B, 35, p.59.
220 Cf. Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 663, par.1; Constitutions, 144, p.78.
221 Cf. Constitutions, 31, p.19.
222 In the Old Testament there was one vineyard, Israel. Now, thanks to the preaching of the apostles, new vineyards appear all over the world, cf. Apponius, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 11,5; B. de Vregille, L. Neyrand, Paris 1998, t.3, SCh 430, p.136.
223 Together with Christ, the soul is contemplating the fruits of the Spirit in the fields of the Church, cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 7,17, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.254; De Virginitate, 6,34.
224 Cf. Constitutions, 150, p.80.
225 According to the Fathers the verse alludes to the observance of the commandments of the New and Old Testament (cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 7,21, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.256-257; In Ps. 118, 22,33) or to the praise of God with the canticles of the Old and New Testament (cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 208, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.182)
226 Cf. Constitutions, 47, p.30.
227 Cf. Constitutions, 47b, p.31.
228 In the mistery of the cross the Church kisses Jesus in a spiritual way, Cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 211, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.186.
229 Cf. Constitutions, 18, p.11.
230 Cf. Constitutions, 35, p.22.
231 There are various interpretations of the passage. The left hand symbolizes the present care of God and the right (in front) his future gifts, cf. Nilus Ancyrensis, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 48; M.-G. Guérard, SCh 403 (1994), p. 260; Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 2,23, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.78. The left hand is the first coming of Jesus and the right hand is His second coming, cf. Origen, Commentario al Cantico dei Cantici, 74, Testi in lingua greca, M.A. Barbara, Biblioteca Patristica, Bologna 2005, p.266-268.
232 Cf. Constitutions, 130, p.74.
233 Cf. Constitutions, 153, p.83.
234 Cf. Constitutions, 18, p.11.
235 Cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 218, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.190.
236 Cf. Constitutions, 13, p.7.
237 Cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 8,9, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.264.
238 Cf. Constitutions, IV-V.
239 Jesus and His followers, the martyrs, cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 221, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.190.
240 Cf. Constitutions, 81, p.54.
241 Cf. Act 2:3.
242 Cf. Lc 24:32. Cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 8,12, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.266.
243 Cf. Constitutions, 20, p.11.
244 The waters may also symbolize the temptations, Cf. Philo Carpasii, Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nell’antica versione di Epifanio Scolastico, 224, A. Ceresa-Gastalgo, Corona Patrum 6, Torino 1979, p.192.
245 Cf. Constitutions, 81, p.54.
246 Cf. Codex Iuris Canonici, can. 600; Constitutions, 50, p.33-34.
247 Cf. Spiritual Directory, Section B, 30, p.58.
248 Cf. Ambrosius Mediolanensis, in: Guillelmus Abbas S. Theodorici, Commento Ambrosiano al Cantico dei Cantici, 8,22, G. Banterle, Opera omnia di Sant’Ambrogio 27, Milano-Roma 1993, p.272.
249 Cf. Constitutions, 266, p.128.
250 Cf. Constitutions, 77, p.51.
251 Cf. Constitutions, 6, p.5.
252 Cf. Constitutions, 24, p.15.
253 Cf. Gal 4:19; Constitutions, 26, p.17.
254 Cf. Constitutions, 5, p.3.
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