GENERAL AUDIENCE OF 6 JUNE 
At the general audience in St Peter's Square, on Wednesday
morning, 6 June, Pope John Paul II continued his analysis of the Song of
Songs in connection with his catechesis on the theology of human love in
the divine plan.
1. Again today we will reflect on the Song of Songs, with the aim of
better understanding the sacramental sign of marriage.
The truth about love, proclaimed by the Song of Songs, cannot be
separated from the language of the body. The truth about love enables
the same language of the body to be reread in truth. This is also
the truth about the progressive approach of the spouses which increases
through love. The nearness means also the initiation into the mystery of
the person, without, however, implying its violation (cf. Sg 1:13-14,
The truth about the increasing nearness of the spouses through love is
developed in the subjective dimension "of the heart," of affection and
sentiment. This dimension allows one to discover in itself the other as
a gift and, in a certain sense, to "taste it" in itself (cf. Sg 2:3-6).
Through this nearness the groom more fully lives the experience of that
gift which on the part of the female "I" is united with the spousal
expression and meaning of the body. The man's words (cf. Sg 7:1-8) do
not only contain a poetic description of his beloved, of her feminine
beauty on which his senses dwell, but they speak of the gift and the
self-giving of the person.
The bride knows that the groom's longing is for her and she goes to meet
him with the quickness of the gift of herself (cf. Sg 7:9-13) because
the love that unites them is at one and the same time of a spiritual and
a sensual nature. It is also on the basis of this love that the
rereading of the significance of the body in the truth comes to pass,
since the man and woman must together constitute that sign of the mutual
gift of self, which puts the seal on their whole life.
2. In the Song of Songs the language of the body becomes a part of the
single process of the mutual attraction of the man and woman. This
attraction is expressed in the frequent refrains that speak of the
search that is full of nostalgia, of affectionate solicitude (cf. Sg
2:7) and of the spouses' mutual rediscovery (cf. Sg 5:2). This brings
them joy and calm, and seems to lead them to a continual search. One has
the impression that in meeting each other, in reaching each other, in
experiencing one's nearness, they ceaselessly continue to tend toward
something. They yield to the call of something that dominates the
content of the moment and surpasses the limits of the eros, limits that
are reread in the words of the mutual language of the body (cf. Sg
1:7-8; 2:17). This search has its interior dimension: "the heart is
awake" even in sleep. This aspiration, born of love on the basis of the
language of the body, is a search for integral beauty, for purity that
is free of all stain. It is a search for perfection that contains, I
would say, the synthesis of human beauty, beauty of soul and body.
In the Song of Songs the human eros reveals the countenance of love ever
in search and, as it were, never satisfied. The echo of this
restlessness runs through the strophes of the poem:
"I opened to my lover—but
my lover had departed, gone.
I sought him but I did not find him;
I called to him but he did not answer me" (Sg 5:6).
"I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem, if you find my lover—
What shall you tell him?
that I am faint with love" (Sg 5:9).
3. So then some strophes of the Song of Songs present the eros as the
form of human love in which the energies of desire are at work. In them,
the awareness or the subjective certainty of the mutual, faithful and
exclusive belonging is rooted. At the same time, however, many other
strophes of the poem lead us to reflect on the cause of the search and
the restlessness that accompanies the awareness of belonging to each
other. Is this restlessness also part of the nature of the eros? If it
were, this restlessness would indicate also the need for self-control.
The truth about love is expressed in the awareness of mutual belonging,
the fruit of the aspiration and search for each other, and in the need
for the aspiration and the search, the outcome of mutual belonging.
In this interior necessity, in this dynamic of love, there is indirectly
revealed the near impossibility of one person's being appropriated
and mastered by the other. The person is someone who surpasses all
measures of appropriation and domination, of possession and
gratification, which emerge from the same language of the body. If the
groom and the bride reread this language in the full truth about the
person and about love, they arrive at the ever deeper conviction that
the fullness of their belonging constitutes that mutual gift in which
love is revealed as "stern as death," that is, it goes to the furthest
limits of the language of the body in order to exceed them. The truth
about interior love and the truth about the mutual gift in a certain
sense continually call the groom and the bride—through
the means of expressing the mutual belonging, and even by breaking away
from those means—to
arrive at what constitutes the very nucleus of the gift from
person to person.
Following the paths of the words marked out by the strophes of the Song
of Songs, it seems that we are therefore approaching the dimension in
which the eros seeks to be integrated, through still another truth about
love. Centuries later, in the light of the death and resurrection of
Christ, Paul of Tarsus will proclaim this truth in the words of his
Letter to the Corinthians:
"Love is patient; love is kind.
Love is not jealous; it does not put on airs; it is not snobbish.
Love is never rude; it is not self-seeking; it is not prone to anger;
neither does it brood over injuries.
Love does not rejoice in what is wrong but rejoices with the truth.
There is no limit to love's forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its
power to endure.
Love never fails" (1 Cor 13:4-8).
Is the truth about love, expressed in the strophes of the Song of
Songs, confirmed in the light of these words of Paul? In the Song
we read, as an example of love, that its "jealousy" is "relentless as
the nether world" (Sg 8:6). In the Pauline letter we read that "love is
not jealous." What relationship do both of these expressions about love
have? What relationship does the love that is "stern as death,"
according to the Song of Songs, have with the love that "never fails,"
according to the Pauline letter? We will not multiply these questions;
we will not open the comparative analysis. Nevertheless, it seems that
love opens up before us here in two perspectives. It is as though that
in which the human eros closes its horizon is still opened, through
Paul's words, to another horizon of love that speaks another language,
the love that seems to emerge from another dimension of the person, and
which calls, invites, to another communion. This love has been called
"agape" and agape brings the eros to completion by purifying it.
So we have concluded these brief meditations on the Song of Songs,
intended to further examine the theme of the language of the body. In
this framework, the Song of Songs has a totally singular meaning.