Like poetic prophecy, the Song of Songs is lyrical wisdom poetry and like Hosea’s prophetic poetics of love, the Song offers us a wisdom poetry of love that employs lyrical love tropes to transfigure love. Poetic prophecy communicates wisdom mysteries of love’s ineffable glory, opening the human heart into transfiguring glory in the very heart of God. Mystical theology can sometimes appear philosophical, as with St Denys, but it is most itself when it is lyrical wisdom, as we see in St Gregory of Nyssa, St Simeon the New Theologian and St John of the Cross, whose lyrical Canticle chants the Song of Songs in fresh lyrical, mystic mode. Wisdom’s lyricism is mimetic in that it imitates love’s dynamic energy in the language of ecstatic odes. Like the Odes of Solomon, it reveals the Beloved Disciple’s love, first as God’s love but also as the Shulammite’s ecstatic human love responding to that love, as in the Song of Songs. The linguistic play of these mystic songs is a mimetic imaging of God’s uncreated love-play, expressing the loving glory of grace. Sacred odes sometimes include dramatic as well as narrative modes but their primary mode is lyrical, because the primary energy inspiring the Song of Songs is love. There is, indeed, some drama and narrative but they serve to express the mysteries of love. The drama is love’s drama as love suffers absence and rejoices in presence. The narrative is love’s unfolding as it serves to unveil love. Solomon and the Shulammite unveil love’s drama of absence and presence with a narrative that plots love’s unfolding of love through the changing perspectives of the beloved. The feminine voice of the Song employs lyrical poetry to express love’s intensity as ecstasy, beyond all explanation, elucidation or judgment.
It is the Song’s lyrical wisdom that is true mystical theology. It is not mystical theology that is being read into the Song because if God is love, love is uncreated energy and uncreated creativity, too. The Song chants love’s hallowing song of the Name as love’s embrace of the beloved, revealing the mysterious ultimacy of love in the Name. God is mentioned in the Song only once, as the flame of Yah, because the Odist knows that linguistic reification distances love, reducing love to what falls short of love. It is love’s impelling music of lyrical wisdom that expresses love simply as love, evoking love. It is the lyrical play of love’s Song of Songs that expresses the play of love’s intimate wisdom. The Shulammite evokes Solomon’s SHALOM with her love, as he invokes wondrous SHALOM in her as the Shulammite, leading both from separation to union in great peace, from proximity to love’s ineffable embrace of SHALOM. The Name of love seals the heart with a flame of love stronger than death, for wisdom is an all-consuming blaze, purifying confusion, burning division, making peace. Lyrical wisdom communicates the mysteries of love’s glory allusively and enigmatically in a variety of liberating, integrating ways. Love’s epiphanies are already wisdom’s theophanies of peace, long before theology even begins to speak. Love’s original lightening flash generates regenerative glory, prior to love’s expressible, temporal unfolding. The lyrical wisdom of glory says ‘Yes’, ‘Amen,’ ‘So be it.’ Here, glory’s Word is flesh and blood, and flesh and blood are glory’s liberating Word. Here, Christ is love incarnate, communicating incarnate love, purifying and illumining our lives and loves. Here, Christ is the glory of love, glorifying our lives and loves in his reign of uncreated glory.
Love and language are ultimately one in the Holy of Holies where the Song of Songs is revealed. Wisdom may sometimes employ literal expressions but prefers figurative metaphor when wisdom sings. Wisdom embodies her signs and symbols when she sings of the Tetragram that names the Name beyond all names, creatively imagining the imageless origin of wisdom’s creative imagination. Images conceal as they reveal what the prophetic imagination unveils. Metaphor expresses glory by veiling what is being revealed. Metaphorical symbolism bridges the primordial breach so as to heal the catastrophic rupture. The uncreated, creative imagination loves to sing wisdom odes as songs of love, because love is the bridging of the breach, preserving difference, healing division. Difference is glorified by love, even as love cures difference of every trace of diabolical division. Love of wisdom preserves sound difference by not confusing wisdom and love, refusing to reduce union to confusion or difference to division. Wisdom transmits the uncreated to the created and the created to the uncreated, which is why Christ is invoked as wisdom at the heart of the Gospel. The lyricism of wisdom in the Song of Songs springs from the revelation of the Name in wisdom’s burning bush of blazing love.
The infusion of wisdom hears the Song of Songs as the resounding glory of the Holy of Holies. It follows that the Song hallows the saints beyond every literal reading of Scripture, uncovering the wisdom of the Song in the desert. The Name’s hallowing is present but implicit on Mount Sinai, present yet explicit in Hesychast invocations of the hallowed Name. It was the revelation of the Name that transfigured the beloved disciple through God’s glory, because God knows his own in his beloved. The letter veils what the Spirit unveils, but sound veiling is integral to wholesome unveiling, because without it, the Name is heard and made known in vain. Unveiling veils glory to preserve revelation from vainglory. Lyrical wisdom veils to unveil, truly unveiling only what was safely veiled. Prophetic parable was loved because it kept secret what vainglory took in vain, just as wisdom song was loved because it unveils what poetic metaphor so deftly veils. The Name shares in this paradox, for it veils what it unveils in order to unveil what it veils. The lyrical wisdom of the Song is in fact the key to all scripture, imparting the wisdom of unveiling with the glory that is veiled. The Name unites what it wisely holds apart, so as to preserve what it unites from falling into vain confusion or from vainly falling apart.
The Shulammite transmits her wisdom to Solomon, who sings her wisdom in a Song of Songs to all who transmit mysteries of divine-human union by discerning deification in incarnation. Wisdom unveils glory by transcending divisions between sense and spirit, sealing the heart with the Spirit’s integral wisdom. The seal of the Name leaves traces of uncreated glory in sensible creation wherever wisdom is revealed. The Name bridges the chasm between sense and spirit by singing wisdom songs uniting sense and spirit in the hallowed Name. The Name leaves signs of its seal wherever it is unveiled, unveiling glory to wisdom and wisdom through glory. Lyrical wisdom dances between sense and spirit, baffling all who drive hard divisions between them, providing keys to wisdom, opening wisdom to glory. The Name engraves an icon of God in the heart, the image of Christ, God’s icon of God incarnate in all, imparted to all, leaving traces of glory above and vestiges of glory below. Wisdom songs, expressing divine-human love, incarnate as lyrical wisdom odes of glory, transmit the glory of love from love of wisdom through to wise, ecstatic love. Thanks to lyrical wisdom, heaven and earth are renewed as a New Jerusalem, a reign of joy prophetically envisioned, a reign of peace beheld by wisdom as expanding glory.
The SHALOM of the Shulammite weds the SHALOM of Solomon as a lyric dance of ecstatic love, envisioning the peace of the New Jerusalem as the glorified Bride of Christ. Glory illumines the reign of Christ in paradise, generating loves that spring from the overflowing abundance of grace, the unconditioned generosity of divine love, kindness that does not count the cost. The uncreated creativity of unselfish love generates the glory that completes incompleteness without self-interest. Curing fear, violence falls away, releasing grace in abundance, generating creativity, not from lack, but from fullness. The uncreated creativity of wisdom creates beauty through love of beauty, rather than from mimetic desire and envious, ambitious rivalry. The lyrical wisdom of the Song of Songs is an expression of the grace of overflowing love and the creativity of wisdom’s embrace of the wondrous glory of grace. The beauty of glory unveils wondrous completeness, far transcending productivity conditioned by lack, by frustrated incompleteness. Passionate dispassion bears witness to uncreated creativity desirous of all-embracing completeness, wholesome love of the sheer beauty of difference, wholehearted generosity arising from the indivisible abundance of generous completeness. Lyrical wisdom holds open this glory of grace, communicating songs of Great Peace through God’s fierce flame of the Name.
Wisdom songs like the Song of Songs, or the Odes of Solomon, reach down into the hells of earthly despair to empty them into uncreated light. They plunge into the infernal depths of nihilism to release them into ineffable glory. Lyrical wisdom is inexhaustible, revealing hidden depths that precise prose cannot fathom. Neither the Song of Songs, nor the Odes of Solomon, stay in safe places of controlled confinement, but reveal God’s radical Orthodoxy that shatters the closures of fear. Lyrical wisdom transmits glorification as the fruit of purification and illumination of the heart, but this has nothing to do with pathological repressions of genuine love. Nor is wisdom confused with the sublimation of repressed love. The Song invites the heart to turn and see all love’s sufferings opening from absence to presence, revealing the hidden oneness of pure prayer and ecstatic joy. Fear still thinks this far too dangerous, but love rejoices as it releases fear, opening fear to love’s ecstatic openness. Lyrical wisdom springs from turning that truly steps back to see, awakening insight into the Shulammite’s dance of love and Solomon’s ecstatic wisdom songs. Lyrical wisdom song welcomes the joy of glory, far transcending what thought can conceive, dancing with the Shulammite, then singing with Solomon unfamiliar songs of ineffable Peace.