Belushi, Geer, and God… (ok, and Solomon.)

Chagall’s Song of Solomon 1958
JMJ

The Readings for Thursday 3 Advent (Year 2):

Similis est dilectus meus capreæ, hinnuloque cervorum. En ipse stat post parietem nostrum, respiciens per fenestras, prospiciens per cancellos. En dilectus meus loquitur mihi. SPONSUS: Columba mea, in foraminibus petræ, in caverna maceriæ, ostende mihi faciem tuam, sonet vox tua in auribus meis: vox enim tua dulcis, et facies tua decora.
My beloved is like a roe, or a young hart. Behold he standeth behind our wall, looking through the windows, looking through the lattices. My beloved speaks: My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hollow places of the wall, shew me thy face, let thy voice sound in my ears: for thy voice is sweet, and thy face comely.
Thus is fulfilled, as I posted yesterday. The Christian tradition follows Jewish tradition on this love story: the Bride is the Church (the New Israel) and the Groom is Christ. For Jews it’s Israel and the Holy One.

This image of Christ, peaking through the latice at us, of the love watching through the window, is one of the best images ever, as he sings to us, “My dove, hiding in the cleft of the wall…” It’s erotic. It’s romantic. It’s… rather creepy really. If we listen with our modern ideas of sex and sexuality. Why do you want your lover watching you through the window shades? Why does your lover want to?

John Belushi in Animal House (1978)

This is our ideas of human sexuality: our passions run amok so much so that we can’t even begin to image God as lover without it getting creepy. The creepy part, though, is not what God is doing in this verse: it’s our imaginations.

The Virginal conception and birth of Jesus doesn’t just seem “hyper-pious” it seems improbable, if not impossible: because no one we know is a virgin any more. How can two, normal teenagers (Joseph and Mary) have abstained from Sex? Even following the tradition of the Church where Joseph was elderly, we know – right? – we know that Old Guys marry Young Girls to have more sex. We know this.
We know with all our faith that my body doesn’t control me, that old people need Viagra, that porn is normal, that men don’t watch women through windows, or they get arrested.
And that God doesn’t’ care what goes on in my bedroom.
But if we see the Church as the Bride of Christ… and that seems creepy… Maybe we’re missing something about human sexuality? How did 2,000 years of Christians and 4,000 years of Jews before that manage to handle it? And how about all those pagan places where the King was married to the land for the sake of fertility and defense? What are we missing today where God is sexless and is not empowered to pick his own pronouns through the only voice he has givne us, and where the Church is an it, not a she?
Although the Song of Songs tends to switch back and forth in voice between the Bride and the Goom, along with a few other parties, the Narrator tends to sound like the Bride: saying “My lover says…” when the Groom speaks.  Solomon has put on a woman’s voice, telling the story of how God has wooed Israel.
Larry Norman’s amazing “I’ve Got to Learn to Live Without You” (1972) is one attempt by the rocker legend to put himself into a feminine persona as he sings about Christ. (There’s another one on the series of three albums known as the Trilogy, but I can’t just now remember which song it is.) 
The Church, too, is the feminine voice, expressed mostly by men, wooed by God. Was it CS Lewis? Or someone modern writer who said that God is the ultimate power, the male, active force to the passive, receptive, female force of the entire cosmos. We are all feminine before God.
And here, in Solomon’s text, if we let it be about romance, about joy, about love, it’s not at all creepy. We’re the ones who have wandered away: we are the prostitute that God has married. We are the wayward one rescued by the strong hand that would bring us back only for love.
Richard Geer and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (1990)
Christmas really makes no sense otherwise. God has self-sacrificed out of love for us. Just how much self-sacrifice we shall see on Monday. It is so deep, so wide, so powerful that we cannot avoid it save only by callousness, cold-heartedness, and pride.

We are called to humility before this God who only wants to love us.

Will you not be wooed by him? He says you are lovely. Will you not let him hear your voice?

You came into my life, you took me off the shelf
You told my name to me and taught me what to do
But then you went away and left me by myself,
I feel completely lost and lonely without you
Why’d you go, baby? I guess you know,
I’ve got to learn to live without you
I’ve got to learn to live without you
I’ve got to learn to live without you, without you
Today I thought I saw you walking down the street
With someone else, I turned my head and faced the wall
I started crying and my heart fell to my feet
But when I looked again it wasn’t you at all
Why’d you go, baby? I guess you know,
I’ve got to learn to live without you
I’ve got to learn to live without you
I’ve got to learn to live without you, without you
It’s just no good without you, without you
It’s just no good without you, without you
It’s just no good without you
I’ve got to learn to live without you
I’ve got to learn to live without you
I’ve got to learn to live without you

Author: Huw Richardson

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He has worked in tech (mostly) since 1999 and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.