110. Truth and Freedom the Foundation of
By Pope John Paul II
1. We resume
our analysis of the Song of Songs with the purpose of understanding in a more
adequate and exhaustive way the sacramental sign of marriage. This is manifested
by the language of the body, a singular language of love originating in the
At a certain point, expressing a particular experience of values that
shines upon everything that relates to the person he loves, the groom says:
"You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride;
you have ravished my heart with one glance of your eyes,
with one bead of your necklace.
How sweet are your caresses, my sister, my bride..." (Sg 4:9-10).
From these words emerges what is of essential importance for the theology of the
body—and in this case for the theology of the sacramental sign of marriage—to
know who the female "you" is for the male "I" and vice versa.
The groom in the Song of Songs exclaims: "You are all-beautiful, my beloved" (Sg
4:7) and calls her "my sister, my bride" (Sg 4:9). He does not call her by her
name, but he uses expressions that say more.
Under a certain aspect, compared with the name "beloved," the name "sister" that
is used for the bride seems to be more eloquent and rooted in the sum total of
the Song, which illustrates how love reveals the other person.
Openness toward others
term "beloved" indicates what is always essential for love, which puts
the second "I" beside one's own "I." Friendship—love of friendship (amor
amicitiae)—signifies in the Song a particular approach felt and experienced
as an interiorly unifying power. The fact that in this approach that female "I"
is revealed for her groom as "sister"—and that precisely as both sister and
bride—has a special eloquence. The expression "sister" speaks of the union
in mankind and at the same time of her difference and feminine originality. This
is not only with regard to sex, but to the very way of "being person," which
means both "being subject" and "being in relationship." The term "sister" seems
to express, in a more simple way, the subjectivity of the female "I" in personal
relationship with the man, that is, in the openness of him toward others,
who are understood and perceived as brothers. The sister in a certain sense
helps man to identify himself and conceive of himself in this way, constituting
for him a kind of challenge in this direction.
3. The groom in the Song accepts the challenge and seeks the common past, as
though he and his woman were descended from the same family circle, as though
from infancy they were united by memories of a common home. So they mutually
feel as close as brother and sister who owe their existence to the same mother.
From this a specific sense of common belonging follows. The fact that they feel
like brother and sister allows them to live their mutual closeness in security
and to manifest it, finding support in that, and not fearing the unfair judgment
of other men.
Through the name "sister," the groom's words tend to reproduce, I would say, the
history of the femininity of the person loved. They see her still in the time of
girlhood and they embrace her entire "I," soul and body, with a disinterested
tenderness. Hence there arises that peace which the bride speaks of.
This is the peace of the body, which in appearance resembles sleep ("Do not
arouse, do not stir up love before its own time"). This is above all the
peace of the encounter in mankind as the image of God—and the encounter
by means of a reciprocal and disinterested gift. ("So am I in your eyes,
like one who has found peace", Sg 8:10.)
Awareness of mutual belonging
relation to the preceding plot, which could be called a "fraternal" plot,
another plot emerges in the loving duet of the Song of Songs, another substratum
of the content. We can examine it by starting from certain sayings that seem to
have a key significance in the poem. This plot never emerges explicitly, but
through the whole composition, and is expressly manifested only in a few
passages. So the groom says:
"You are an enclosed garden, my sister, my bride,
an enclosed garden, a fountain sealed" (Sg 4:12).
The metaphors just read, an "enclosed garden, a fountain sealed," reveal the
presence of another vision of the same female "I," master of her own mystery.
We can say that both metaphors express the personal dignity of the woman who as
a spiritual subject is in possession and can decide not only on the metaphysical
depth, but also on the essential truth and authenticity of the gift of herself,
inclined to that union which Genesis speaks of.
The language of metaphors—poetic language—seems to be in this sphere especially
appropriate and precise. The "sister bride" is for the man the master of her own
mystery as a "garden enclosed" and a "fountain sealed." The language of the body
reread in truth keeps pace with the discovery of the interior inviolability
of the person. At the same time, this discovery expresses the authentic
depth of the mutual belonging of the spouses who are aware of belonging to each
other, of being destined for each other: "My lover belongs to me and I to him" (Sg
2:16; cf. 6:3).
5. This awareness of mutual belonging resounds especially on the lips of the
bride. In a certain sense, with these words she responds to the groom's words
with which he acknowledged her as the master of her own mystery. When the bride
says, "My lover belongs to me," she means at the same time, "It is he to whom I
entrust myself." Therefore she says, "and I to him" (Sg 2:16). The words "to me"
and "to him" affirm here the whole depth of that entrustment, which
corresponds to the interior truth of the person.
It likewise corresponds to the nuptial significance of femininity in relation to
the male "I," that is, to the language of the body reread in the truth of
The groom states this truth with the metaphors of the "garden enclosed" and the
"fountain sealed." The bride answers him with the words of the gift, that is,
the entrustment of herself. As master of her own choice she says, "I belong to
my lover." The Song of Songs subtly reveals the interior truth of this
response. The freedom of the gift is the response to the deep awareness of the
gift expressed by the groom's words. Through this truth and freedom that love is
built up, which we must affirm is authentic love.