With breasts like twin gazelles – the Song of Songs

This post is in the series Rite Reading.

The Song of Solomon is one of several books (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the deuterocanonical Wisdom being the others) to be attributed to Solomon because of the tradition that made him a proverbial figure of wisdom. Its traditional title, Song of Songs,1 indicates (according to Hebrew idiom) it is the best of all songs. Sadly, no readings from it occur in the shared lectionary tradition on a Sunday.2 One short passage is used as the first reading for the feast of St Mary Magdalene.

I once gave a talk – with selected readings – on books of the bible we hardly ever read in church. This was one of my selections, and I read a couple of the passages where the lovers in the song describe each other. Afterwards, an older and more senior priest took me to one side, and said: “I’m not sure you should really read those passages in church.” To which I protested mildly, “But that was rather the point of it.” He replied, “well, you didn’t have to sound as though you were enjoying it.”

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