Monday, February 18, 2013

Learning to Love: Spiritual Love

Gloria Ornelas Hall
The Bible’s Song of Songs, attributed to Solomon (though it clearly describes a woman’s way of loving) starts with a first verse that seems to talk about two different types of Lovers: one physical, and the other, spiritual:
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.

Your love is more delightful than wine.
Delicate is the fragrance of your perfume,
Your name is an oil poured out,
And that is why the maidens love you.
Draw me in your footsteps, let us run.
The King has brought me into his rooms,
You will be our joy and our gladness.
We shall praise your love above wine;
How right it is to love you.
(quoted from the Jerusalem Bible)
 Not all versions of this verse are the same, but it clearly talks about the physical love bestowed by the King and the joy with which loving God, enriches their romance.
Traditionally, these verses have been interpreted to be the love between a mystical Bridegroom (God) and Israel (the Bride). Erotic symbolism has been described in its metaphors such as “Let my lover come into his garden and taste its delicious fruits”. It describes the ‘innocence’ of enjoyment lived in Eden, later missed as ‘experience’ drew man away from God.

The profound yearning and dolorous longing for the Love once known, is painfully familiar. It describes our way of loving today, after a broken heart. Strangely, it is only the woman (Bride) that talks to her mystical Beloved (God-Bridegroom), while her physical lover praises only her physical qualities. It is as if only women dialogue that intimately with God, merging their sexual arousal with their mystical yearning. In the verse, it is plain to see that while kisses are good, God´s love is better. Man’s love cannot quench the thirst for greater spiritual satisfaction.

Having been betrothed to God in a Carmelite ceremony where temporary vows to poverty, obedience and silence are made, I can relate to this type of loving. It is as a sigh that takes  a deep breath, gasping in need, for that Loving we have felt, but lost in the ‘dark night of the Soul’. Santa Teresa, St John of the Cross, and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz all have erotic poetry loving God.

I wore my mother’s bridal gown and walked down the aisle alone, as my family bid me farewell with a song. I crossed the threshold of ‘life’ as I entered the cloister and died to social life. I lay postrate, face down, on the floor with my arms extended in the shape of the cross. My ‘sisters’ shaved my head and put my habit on…then I lay in an open coffin, to meet with My Loved One in contemplation of death. It may sound eerie to disbelievers, or those who haven´t been exposed to Catholic tradition, but it is really quite romantic.
 Bernini's statue of Sta. Therese in 'orgasm' as she is struck by Love

Later lovers and husbands, have filled an important aspect of love…but my spiritual Lover does the rest.

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