CANTICLE OF CANTICLES - Introduction
SOLOMON'S CANTICLE OF CANTICLES.
This book is called the Canticle of Canticles, that is to say,
the most excellent of all canticles: because it is full of high mysteries, relating to the happy union of Christ and his spouse;
which is here begun by love; and is to be eternal in heaven. The spouse of Christ is the Church: more especially as
to the happiest part of it, viz., perfect souls, every one of which is his beloved; but above all others, the immaculate and
ever blessed Virgin mother [Mary]. (Challoner) --- The bridegroom is Christ, as God and man. His praises and those of his
spouse are recorded by various speakers. Solomon has given us three works; for beginners, the more advanced, and the perfect;
as the philosophers teach ethics, physics, and metaphysics. All the holy Scriptures contain spiritual food, but they are not
all fit for every person, Hebrews v. 13. With what humility ought we not, therefore, to read this most perfect and mystical
canticle, as the sentiments of spiritual love are expressed in the same words as that of worldlings, and we are more inclined
to follow our own judgment and carnal notions! (Worthington) --- None, therefore, should dare to peruse this work, who has
not mastered his passions, having his conversation in heaven. (Haydock) --- The Jews would not allow any to read it
before the age of thirty. (Origen and St. Jerome) --- Some of the fathers and commentators have even asserted that the mystical
sense is the only one which pertains to this book, (Theodoret; Durham; Tirinus) and it is certainly the true and principal
one, though allusion may be made to the marriage of Solomon with Pharao's daughter, (Calmet; Bossuet; Du Hamel) or with a
Tyrian princess, (chap. iv. 8., and 3 Kings xiii. 5.) or with Abisag. (Rabbins) --- Grotius shews the corruption of his own
heart in his impure comments, as Theodorus, of Mopsuesta, is blamed by the second Council of Const.[Constantinople?] iv. a.
68. The name of God never, indeed, occurs; as he is represented under the idea of the bridegroom, &c., and the
piece is allegorical. It might be divided into seven scenes, or nights, as the marriage feast lasted so long, Genesis
xxix. 22. During this time the bridegroom saw his spouse seldom, and with great reserve, (Calmet) as was the custom with the
Lacedemonians. (Plut.[Plutarch?] in Lyc.) --- We might also refer all to six nights, or to the six ages of the Church, conformably
to the system of De la Chetardie and Bishop Walmesley on the Apocalypse. --- I. Age. Chap i. 2., marks the ascension
of Christ, and the propagation of Christianity; ver. 4, 5., persecutions; ver. 6, 7., vocation of the Gentiles; ver. 12.,
protection granted by Christ. II. Chap. ii. 3., peace under Constantine; ver. 11, 17., troubles excited by Arius. III.
Chap. iii. 1., irruption of barbarians; ver. 4., does not overturn the Church; ver. 6., they are converted; ver. 11., and
Christ is more glorified, as [in] Apocalypse xix. IV. Chap. iv. 5., the Latin and Greek Churches; ver. 8., the Chaldeans,
lions, and Greeks, leopards, (Daniel) are converted; the Turks obtain dominion; ver. 12., the Greek schismatics
cut off: ver. 16., the Church is persecuted, but protected. V. Chap. v. 2., Dew marks the cooling of charity,
(St. Augustine) when Luther appeared; chap. vi. 3., yet the Church triumphs, particularly after the Council of Trent. VI.
Chap. vi. 9., after the sounding of the sixth trumpet, the Jews are converted, and adorn the Church, in spite of antichrist's
power; ver. 11., she addresses the synagogue, ver. 12. Chap. viii. 2., obtains leave to go into the house of her mother, as
the apostles were of Jewish extraction; ver. 7., the constancy of the martyrs appears; (see Rondet.) ver. 8-14., the Church
pants for her speedy union with her beloved. We may justly admire her authority, in preserving this and the former work in
the canon, notwithstanding the internal and external evidence, and the ill use made of them by infidels, which seemed to militate
against them. The Protestant Chateillon styles this "a wicked book." Several passages may, no doubt, be abused by a corrupt
heart: but what is there so holy, which may not be perverted? When we meditate on this canticle, we ought to remember the
admonition given by the Church in the Mass: "Let hearts be on high;" and Oh! that all might answer with truth: "We have them
to the Lord!"