If you know me at all, you know that I love the Song of Songs. I realize some people read it and feel uncomfortable, but I read it and am filled with the sweet love of Christ the Bridegroom for me His Bride. This book of the Bible has never failed to give me a deep well of peace, and it has never failed to draw me deeper into relationship with my Beloved.
Still, as often as I’ve read those heavenly sweet eight chapters, I do admit that there was much I did not understand. At least, my mind did not understand the poetry, but certainly my heart did, because it was always drawn to and rested in those words, going back to them even when I did not understand intellectually.
This summer, although I worked at my parish and got to spend a Holy Hour and go to daily Mass most days, I felt overwhelmed and in need of an extended time alone with Jesus. I prayed that if He also desired that time, that He would make it work out for me. A few weeks later it all fell into place that I could take three days off of work and stay for free with the Servants of God’s Love, a religious order of Sisters who taught at my high school, for a personal, self-led retreat with Jesus. The night before I left for the retreat, I asked God if there was a theme He wanted me to pray and focus on during my time. He told me, “Love and war.” My mind skipped to a lot of different things, mainly spiritual warfare, a young man in my life whom I had had to recently let go of as he pursued the priesthood, Consecrated Virginity (a vocation I had been and still am considering), and of course just the love of God for me. So I kept all of that in mind as I started my retreat and browsed the Sisters’ bookshelves for a book to focus on. The Holy Spirit captured my attention with Watchman Nee’s commentary, Song of Songs, and I climactically pulled it off the library shelves.
Reading it in a rocking chair in the loft of the beautiful chapel at the motherhouse, I quickly learned there was actually little to maybe even nothing that I truly understood of this book of the Bible. The Song of Songs goes deeper than my mind fathomed and my heart sensed. I drew countless inspirations and insights, joys and comforts, and motivations and convictions from reading this line-by-line commentary in front of the Blessed Sacrament, my Sweet Bridegroom Himself. The one that especially pierced my heart was the education of the Bride in the affairs of love. She goes from a boastful and selfish love only concerned with the sweet feelings which accompany it, to an entering into the Passion of the Beloved and offering herself totally to Him, now saying, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me” (7:10) rather than “My beloved is mine” (2:16). The Bride is transformed throughout the song from one who tastes the sweetness of love and wants only to keep that consolation for herself, to one who draws her only delight in her complete offering of herself to “him whom my soul loves” (3:1).
After spending three days alone with Jesus and this book, reading and internalizing, praying through and soaking in all that the Lord wished to speak to my soul about through it, the Holy Spirit inspired a new prayer that has changed my life:
“If it pleaseth my Lord, let it be so.”
No matter how hard of a task is being asked of me, I am so “sick with love” (5:8) for my King, my Sweet Jesus, that if I know it pleases Him, I will do it. For example, I’ve prayed this prayer before doing something as simple as unloading the dishwasher for my family. I’ve prayed it before fasting. I prayed it before going to work to help my coworker, even when I had the day off. I even prayed it in discerning whether or not to come back to Hillsdale. Although I am happy at Hillsdale, the devil used my time away from school to attack the good work that is done here. He wanted to discourage me from answering the call to pursue a life of goodness and virtue—the constant challenge of Hillsdale. But praying this prayer turns the attention away from me and onto the Lord. If He desires me to return to Hillsdale to do the work He has planned for me in serving Him there, even if I find it difficult at times, I will do it.
Similarly, no matter what trial I am going through, if I know that it pleases my Lord, I will draw joy from knowing that He is delighted. For example, I suffered a trial of faith this summer that made me feel so lost, abandoned, and in the darkness that I had to cry out to Jesus to save me even though it seemed like no one was listening, or no one cared, or no one would come help. It was a very low point for my mental health, and the enemy had almost had my head under the water. But by the grace of God I held onto hope and faith that that period in my life was necessary for my spiritual growth and mental healing, even though it seemed impossible and almost a mockery to my pain at the time. Though I do not remember consciously praying this prayer, I know it was there in my broken heart, and “the Lord is near to the broken hearted” (Psalm 34:18). I knew in my soul that for some reason I could not see, it pleased my Lord to put me through that trial. That is not to say that He delights in trials or pain (because He certainly does not), but His delight is in His plan for my life coming to completion (even through mysterious or difficult ways), His delight is in me submitting to Him, and more importantly, His delight is in, simply, me.
Who am I to deny my Beloved passage through the gates to my garden? All the fruits of my garden are His, all the fragrance of my mandrakes are for His delight, pleasure, and consolation (7:11-13). He has given Himself totally to me, pouring out the very contents of His Sacred Heart, so it is in deep reverence and immense love that I, in return, give Him all that I have to offer: the fruits of my labor, the fragrance of the virtues I have grown by the hand of His grace, and the sharing in His suffering—the “liquid myrrh” which drips from my hands (5:4-5). I strive each day, by the help of His grace and mercy, to take my only pleasure in giving myself to Him and knowing He is pleased and consoled by it. “Blow upon my garden, let its fragrance be wafted abroad. Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits” (4:16).
This summer has been one of deepening love between my Beloved and myself, and so it is with great joy, deep gratitude, and the grace of God that I can say, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.”
If it pleaseth my King, my Bridegroom, my Sweet and Good Jesus, then O Most Holy Trinity! let it be so!
Scripture passages taken from the Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Copyright 2004 by Oxford University Press.