By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“Let the King have sixty queens, eighty concubines, young women without number! But I love only one.” — Song of Songs 6:8-9
The month of February has been regarded as love month. Specifically, February 14 has been designated as Valentine’s Day in commemoration of the life of St. Valentine. As to who exactly was St. Valentine is still a mystery up to these days.
There are lots of stories about the origin of this religious festival. One story says that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men who were potential soldiers. Valentine realized that such a decree was unjust. And so, he defied the Emperor and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Emperor Claudius ordered his execution. Other stories say that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons where they were often beaten and tortured.
All these stories have a common theme; they all celebrate the noble meaning of romantic love. The problem with some of our religious festivals today is the fact that they tend to be secularized and commercialized, and in the process they would lose their original meaning and intention. One of the reasons for this is that Christians or the church, for instance, tend to view romantic love as something outside of God’s concern. It is a taboo! It should not be discussed in the church. And so the deeper meaning of romantic love is not being taught to potential lovers. No wonder our society is filled up with all sorts of distorted expressions of love relationships, like annulment, legal separation, live-in, querida system, and many others.
In the Bible, there is a book of love songs included and canonized by the church. Those who would not like to sing love songs in the church must realize that the Bible actually contains a book of love songs called the Song of Songs.
In ancient documents, the book is entitled Song of Solomon. But scholars today believed that though the book was attributed to King Solomon perhaps due to his great passion for women, having one thousand wives and concubines; the real writer was the beautiful Shunammite woman named Abishag, who served in the royal court in the last days of King David (I Kings 1:1-4). This claim could be validated by the fact that most romance books today are written by women. Apparently, women have more fertile imaginations than men in terms of romantic love.
The Song of Songs has been very controversial from the very start. Biblical interpreters who have negative attitude towards romantic love being openly discussed in religious circles would raise questions as to why in the world the book was included in the Bible in the first place. And so, to make use of this book, they tried to spiritualize it. They use it as an allegory or a metaphor to represent the love of God for the Israelites or the love of Christ for the church. While this approach may be helpful, it does not, however, take into serious consideration the realities and issues addressed by the songs, which are about romantic love.
There are at least two very important things that the Song of Songs would like to remind us. First and foremost, the book reminds us that romantic love or the love relationship between a man and a woman is part of God’s concern. The mere fact that God has created us male and female would indicate this reality. The inclusion of the Song of Songs in the Holy Scriptures is an affirmation of this faith. This would mean, therefore, that the church should take romantic love seriously, and have a good program on love, courtship, and marriage, especially for young people who are facing this stage in their life.
Unfortunately, in our Filipino culture, it is a taboo to discuss romantic love or the love relationship between a man and a woman, even in the church. And so, young people are not given proper guidance in entering this kind of relationship. They have to seek help from other sources, which are in many cases not in keeping with Christian values and way of life. No wonder our country has the highest number of teenage pregnancy among countries in Asia according to World Health Organization.
Of course, it is not only in our Filipino culture that romantic love is rendered taboo; this is also true in other cultures. For instance, we read in the national dailies onetime about a British 13-year old Alfie and his 15-year old girlfriend Chantelle who became parents at a very young age. Perhaps, incidents like this could be prevented if only the church, as well as, adults or parents would equip their children with the right Christian values and orientation they badly need to face this particular stage in their life.
And secondly, the Song of Songs also reminds us that the genuine romantic love between a man and a woman is beyond measure. Power, fame, and fortune cannot measure genuine romantic love. The story behind the Song of Songs is actually a story of genuine romantic love between a woman and a man. The beautiful woman from Shumen named, Abishag, attracted Solomon, who later on became king of Israel. King Solomon wanted Abishag to be one among his many wives. But Abishag had a lover who was a lowly shepherd. She was faithful to her lover, so much so that no matter how Solomon courted her, she would not like to exchange the purity of her love with the power, fame, and fortune that Solomon promised her.
In her song, the beautiful woman from Shumen firmly declared, “Let the King have sixty queens, eighty concubines, young women without number! But I love only one.” (Song of Songs 6:8-9). Her faithfulness to her lowly shepherd lover is a wake-up call, as well as, a great reminder for a lot of today’s love relationships.
Happy Valentine’s Day! # nordis.net