Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
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 ot 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 Mopsuestra, 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 of 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!"
Let. Hebrew yishakeni, (Haydock) "kiss or instruct me," as if to insinuate the we must raise our thoughts from carnal to spiritual things. --- The. Hebrew, "kisses." --- His mouth. Others I reject. (Menochius) --- The synagogue prays for Christ's coming, as the Church does for his glorious appearance. (Worthington) --- The figures of the law and predictions afford not satisfaction; only the Messias can bring it to mankind. (Origen) --- They shall all be taught by God, John vi. 45., and Hebrews i. 2. (Haydock) --- Breasts. Hebrew also, "loves." But the former is the primary signification of (Menochius) dodec. Christ, in his divine and human nature, is the source of all our good. His graces are manifested. He instructs and feeds us with the truths contained in Scripture, and in tradition, (Haydock) or in the Old and New Testament. (Ven. Bede, &c.) --- Spiritual delights are to be preferred before all terrestrial ones. From the incarnation of Christ, and sanctification of man, all other graces proceed. (Tirinus) --- At first the spouse speaks to the bridegroom in the third person, to show her respect, though he was certainly present. Her companions attend her. (Calmet) --- Wine. All seem to agree that these words are addressed to the bridegroom: which shews that they must be understood in the mystical sense. (Haydock)
Ointments. The bosom used to be perfumed. (Atheneus xv. 5., and xv. 14.) --- Thy name. Thou thyself. The preaching of the gospel produced a wonderful change in the world, 2 Corinthians ii. 15. (Calmet) --- The Church honours the name of Jesus on the second Sunday after the Epiphany. (A. Butler, p. 130.) (Haydock) --- Thee. The martyrs and Christian virgins are inflamed with divine love.
To, &c., is in the Septuagint; but not in Hebrew or Complutensian. (Calmet) --- Grace must draw, and then people will run, John vi. 44., and xii. 32., and Philippians iii. 12. (St. Ambrose) (Bossuet) --- Rooms. Where there is abundance of wine and ointments. The extraordinary favours of heaven are not granted to all, Matthew xiii. 11. (Calmet) --- Righteous. The apostles, and faithful souls, (Haydock) and all who form a right judgment of things, (Menochius) having their thoughts, works, and actions composed. (Tirinus) --- Black. Or brown, ver. 5. (Haydock) --- The Egyptians were of a less fair complexion, and she had been exposed to the sun, ver. 5. (Calmet) --- The synagogue gloried in her advantages; but the Gentiles being chosen by Christ, obtain the palm. (Theodoret) --- Though outwardly afflicted, the Church is inwardly fair. (Worthington) --- Cedar. Or of the Arabs, who dwelt in tents, made of black goat's hair. (Calmet) --- The tents of the eastern kings were equal in magnificence to our palaces. (Bernier, Valle, &c.)
Altered. Hebrew, "looked upon me," (Protestants) or "darted his rays at me." (Montanus) (Haydock) --- The Church of the Gentiles was quite disfigured before Christ chose it. Persecutors afterwards strove to tarnish its beauty, but in vain. --- Vineyard. My face (Calmet) and person I have not regarded, while I was attentive to serve others. (Haydock) --- Pastors, who are chosen against their will, sometimes pay so much attention to the welfare of their flock, that they neglect their own interior, and fall into small faults, which Christ will know how to excuse and pardon, Ezechiel xxxiii. 2. (St. Bernard, ser. xxx.) (Calmet)
Liest. Hebrew, "makest thy flock to rest." (Protestants) (Haydock) --- Mid-day. She represents herself and her beloved as guarding flocks, which were usually driven into some shady place during the heat of the day, when the shepherds took their innocent recreations. --- Wander. (Septuagint; Protestants) But marginal note has, "as one that is veiled," which was the mark of a common woman, Genesis xxxviii. 14. The Gentile Church is eager to be guided by the one true Shepherd, and adheres to him with the greatest fervour, (Calmet) during the heat of persecution. (Cassiodorus) --- We ought to imitate the solicitude of the spouse, and hide ourselves under the shadow of the cross when we are tempted, Isaias xxv. 4. (Calmet)
If. Christ comforts his Church. (Worthington) --- He doubts not of her fidelity. (Menochius) --- But the very insinuation, which she had made, causes him to give her this sort of rebuke. God is jealous, Exodus xxxiv. 14. He punishes the smallest faults. The spouse perceives this, and runs towards him. --- Thyself. He who is ignorant of himself, must be so likewise of God, (Calmet) and will be sentenced to feed goats. (St. Jerome, ep. xxii. ad Eustoc.) --- Kids. Which had been detained at home. They will naturally seek their mothers. All creatures will raise the soul to God, Job xii. --- Shepherds. Though in the midst of a perverse generation of idolaters and philosophers, the Church will continue steadfast. (Menochius)
Company. Hebrew, "mare." Such were preferred, as more gentle and swift. Pharao had probably made his son-in-law a present of a magnificent chariot. Theocritus (xviii.) compares the beauty of Helena to a Thessalian horse in a chariot, so that this idea is not low, Genesis xliv. 14., and Osee x. 11. (Calmet) --- Horsemen. Protestants, "horses." (Haydock) --- Hebrew susa. Septuagint Greek: e ippos means also "cavalry," as well as a mare. The Church has nothing to fear. (Menochius)
As, &c. Hebrew, "with rows of jewels, thy neck with chains of gold." (Protestants) --- Septuagint here read like the Vulgate c instead of b before thurim, which signifies chains, (ver. 10.; Haydock) as well as turtles. We cannot say that this bird has cheeks. (Calmet) --- It is an emblem of the Church mourning, and ever true to her beloved, (Origen, &c.) who bestows a variety of graces on different people, 1 Corinthians xii. 4. (Calmet)
While. The Church meditates on his passion and resurrection. (Worthington) --- Repose. Or bed. Thus our Saviour was treated, Matthew xxvi. 7., and Luke vii. 37. (Calmet) --- Odour. The virtues of the Church please him. (Menochius) --- The saints, before and since his coming, pray with all earnestness, Apocalypse v. 8.
Abide. Hebrew adds, "all night." Christ remained nine months in the virgin's womb. (Calmet) --- The faithful discover him in both the Testaments, (Haydock) and meditate on his sufferings. Myrrh is a bitter but odoriferous liquor.
Cyprus. A shrub with leaves like the olive-tree, and fruit growing in clusters, of a very agreeable smell. See Pliny, [Natural History?] xii. 24. Christ has given us his sacred blood on the cross, and in the blessed Eucharist. (Menochius)
[Title.] Canticles. Hebrew shir hashirim asher Lishlomo, "the Canticle of Canticles which is for (Haydock) or according to Solomon," (Menochius) dictated to him by the Holy Ghost.
Behold. Christ praiseth his spouse. (Worthington) --- Doves. Sharp-sighted, and reddish, Genesis xlix. 12. The Holy Ghost came upon Christ in the form of a dove, Matthew iii. 16. We must imitate his simplicity, (Matthew x. 16.) and have a pure and single eye, or intention, (Matthew vi. 22.; Calmet) inviolably to please God. (Origen) --- The Church decides matters of controversy, without any mistakes. (Menochius)
Behold. The spouse makes a return of praise, and thanksgiving for her repose, to Christ. (Worthington) --- The corporal beauty of Solomon or of our Saviour is not fully ascertained; but their inward perfections are often proclaimed. --- Flourishing. Hebrew, "green." Septuagint, "shaded." (Esther i. 5.) --- This bed was the womb of the blessed Virgin [Mary], the cross, or any faithful soul. St. Bernard says it is a monastery, retired and adorned with all virtues. (Calmet)
Beams. Prelates. --- Rafters. Virtuous subjects. (Menochius) --- Cypress. The are both odoriferous and incorruptible. The cypress has leaves from top to bottom, and grows not so large as the cedar. (Pliny, [Natural History?] xii. 17.)