And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:13)

The theme of love runs like a golden strand through the Bible and the Christian tradition. The ancient marriage hymns found in the Song of Songs gives voice to the lover and the beloved. These texts have their parallel in other ancient texts found throughout the Near East. Passion, love and death stand at the heart of the New Testament story, for the Bible, like no other ancient text, gives us a world of story and ideas on the spiritual meaning of affection, love and marriage.
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:13)

The theme of love runs like a golden strand through the Bible and the Christian tradition. The ancient marriage hymns found in the Song of Songs gives voice to the lover and the beloved. These texts have their parallel in other ancient texts found throughout the Near East. Passion, love and death stand at the heart of the New Testament story, for the Bible, like no other ancient text, gives us a world of story and ideas on the spiritual meaning of affection, love and marriage.

© 2004, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Let him kiss me with his mouth’s kisses!
Truly, sweeter is your love than wine…
(Song of Songs, 1:1-4)

The theme of love runs like a golden strand through the Bible. In the first century Rabbi Akiba said that all the Bible was holy but one book, the Song of Songs, was the “holy of holies.” Attributed to King Solomon, this is where the theme of love is most poignantly portrayed. Here we have the voice of the lover and the beloved, singing of their affection and yearning for each other, their loneliness and fulfillment, passion and delight. Jewish rabbis as well as Christian theologians and mystics hear in these ancient poems of love a description of the spousal relationship between God and humans. They also recognize that the loving of a couple is itself an expression of divine love.
Let him kiss me with his mouth’s kisses!
Truly, sweeter is your love than wine…
(Song of Songs, 1:1-4)

The theme of love runs like a golden strand through the Bible. In the first century Rabbi Akiba said that all the Bible was holy but one book, the Song of Songs, was the “holy of holies.” Attributed to King Solomon, this is where the theme of love is most poignantly portrayed. Here we have the voice of the lover and the beloved, singing of their affection and yearning for each other, their loneliness and fulfillment, passion and delight. Jewish rabbis as well as Christian theologians and mystics hear in these ancient poems of love a description of the spousal relationship between God and humans. They also recognize that the loving of a couple is itself an expression of divine love.

© 2004, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Lover and Beloved

Lover and Beloved

Hans Erni, In Robert Graves, ed., The Song of Songs (New York: C.N. Potter, 1973)
Provincial Museum of Alberta
c. 1973
© Provincial Museum of Alberta


“For Cristes true love I do lyve and dye.
O true Valeyntyne is Oure Lord to me,
Al his body on the crosse he spredde,
And for that my soule his spouse shuld be.”
(John Lydgate, A Calendar, lines 56-59)

“ Passion” is a Greek word meaning “suffering.” Much of its original meaning remains in our use of this word to speak of physical suffering associated with the final days of Jesus' life or the ardent quality of young love or the heat of harmful acts. Love invites us to set aside our own self interest. Lovers long to give themselves to the beloved, to do what they can for the fulfillment of the beloved. Poets and philosophers alike say that the most powerful human feeling is love, and its passion reveals a landscape of human meaning encompassing the utmost vibrancy of life as well as the poignant pain of death.
“For Cristes true love I do lyve and dye.
O true Valeyntyne is Oure Lord to me,
Al his body on the crosse he spredde,
And for that my soule his spouse shuld be.”
(John Lydgate, A Calendar, lines 56-59)

“ Passion” is a Greek word meaning “suffering.” Much of its original meaning remains in our use of this word to speak of physical suffering associated with the final days of Jesus' life or the ardent quality of young love or the heat of harmful acts. Love invites us to set aside our own self interest. Lovers long to give themselves to the beloved, to do what they can for the fulfillment of the beloved. Poets and philosophers alike say that the most powerful human feeling is love, and its passion reveals a landscape of human meaning encompassing the utmost vibrancy of life as well as the poignant pain of death.

© 2004, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Triptych of the Lamentation of Christ

Triptych of the Lamentation of Christ

Jean Bellegambe l’Ancien (circa 1470–circa 1534)
Muzeum Narodowe, Varsovie, Pologne/Bridgeman Art Library

Tempera on panel
NMW 133448
© Muzeum Narodowe, Varsovie, Pologne


“Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
(Revelations, 19:9)

In one of the most haunting texts in the tradition of Christ-mysticism, the Spanish Carmelite nun, mystic and Doctor of the Church, Theresa of Avila (1515–1582), spoke of her union with Christ: “It pleased the Lord that I should sometimes see the following vision. I would see beside me, on my left hand, an angel in bodily form…. In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated my entrails. When he drew it out I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed with a great love for God.… The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one can not possibly wish it to cease, nor will one’s soul be content with anything less than God.”
“Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
(Revelations, 19:9)

In one of the most haunting texts in the tradition of Christ-mysticism, the Spanish Carmelite nun, mystic and Doctor of the Church, Theresa of Avila (1515–1582), spoke of her union with Christ: “It pleased the Lord that I should sometimes see the following vision. I would see beside me, on my left hand, an angel in bodily form…. In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated my entrails. When he drew it out I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed with a great love for God.… The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one can not possibly wish it to cease, nor will one’s soul be content with anything less than God.”

© 2004, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Ecstasy of St. Theresa

Ecstasy of St. Theresa

The facial expression of Theresa in Bernini's masterpiece shows that the union in love vivifies the whole of a person's being, mind, body and soul.

Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680)
Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome/Bridgeman Art Library
c. 1647–1652
Marble
PHD 968
© Bridgeman Art Library


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
• Explain the history and premise of St. Valentine as it originated in ancient Rome
• Demonstrate an understanding of the history of courtship and marriage
• Communicate the connections between contemporary Christian holidays and pagan feasts.
• Describe how historically the notion of romance was broader than physical attraction and reached higher meanings such as courtly love in Medieval times and passionate and divine love in Biblical themes

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