The words seem so very out of place, but the book begins in this way:
“Oh, kiss me! Touch me with your lips.
Your love tastes better than the best wine!”
No, this isn’t from a romance novel or some pornographic story. These are the first words of a book from the Bible: The Song of Songs. Yes, erotic love poems in the Bible! What are they doing there?
The Song of Songs is part of the Hebrew Testament and included with what’s referred to as “wisdom literature.” That’s right! A long, erotic love poem is considered wisdom.
Historically, the inclusion of the Song of Songs in the Bible was controversial, especially for Christians. It’s a poetic story to young lovers of different socio-economic classes and their erotic romance. I suspect that most Christians have never heard a portion of the book read in church nor a sermon about it. Yet, I find the Song of Songs to be critical for the spiritual dimension of life.
We tend to think of spirituality and spiritual practice as other worldly and detached from our bodies. We assume that the person who is truly spiritual has transcended bodily urges. That’s because Western culture has long held that the body is of less value than the human spirit. This separation of the body from the human spirit makes no sense to me.
It is in our bodies that we experience the world. When I look at these words, I’m looking at them with my body. When I bow in prayer, it is my body that is bowing. When I experience awe at the evening sunset, it is my body that is engaged and wrapped in awe. Every moment of our lives in experienced in and through our bodies. There is no experience that we can have that is not related to our bodies. Our bodies are more than some sort of vessel for our spirits. Our bodies are us. When a person sees and recognizes us, they are seeing and recognizing our bodies.
The Song of Songs is all about the body: sensuality, tenderness, and deep longing. I contend that we are able to understand spiritual longing, spiritual union, and spiritual fulfillment because we also experience longing, union, and fulfillment in our bodies. The Song of Songs — the best song that could be sung — causes us to consider that desires of our bodies run parallel to our spiritual desires.
What I find most important about Christian spirituality is that the heart of Christian spirituality is the belief that the Creative Energy of the Divine, the logos or Word, became flesh and lived among us. This affirmation which begins the Gospel of John is central to understanding Christian spirituality. It is an incarnational or embodied spirituality — experienced in every aspect of our lives including our bodies.
One of the challenges for our growth is to recognize and affirm that it is in and through our bodies that we engage in the spiritual dimension of life. The desires and longings of our bodies, the hungers and thirsts, operate like the desires and longings of our spirits. In the end, when the same desires and longings of both body and spirit are cared for and nourished, how blessed we are as integrated people
What does it mean for you to have an embodied spirituality?
(Photo credit: Gabriele Roberti via Foter.com / CC BY-NC)
© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.