By REV. LUNA L. DINGAYAN
“Let the King have sixty queens, eighty concubines, young women without number! But I love only one.” – Song of Songs 6:8-9
Month of Love
The month of February has been regarded as love month, and that 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.
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 that he be put to death. 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.
There are lots of other stories about the historical origin of this festival. But 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 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 of all sorts of distorted expressions of love relationship, like annulment, legal separation, live-in, querida system, and many others.
Songs of Love
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 church should 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 perhaps 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 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 romance.
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 most 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 take into serious consideration, however, 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, that 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. Unfortunately, in our Filipino culture, it is a taboo to discuss the love relationship between a man and a woman, even in the church. And so, young people are not given proper guidance in entering into 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.
By the way, this is not only true in our Filipino culture; it is also happening in other cultures. For instance, just the other day, February 15, we read in the national dailies about a British 13-year old Alfie and his 15-year old girlfriend Chantelle became parents last week. Perhaps, incidents like this could be prevented if only 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, that the genuine love between a man and a woman is beyond measure. Power, fame, and fortune cannot measure genuine love. The story behind the Song of Songs is actually a story of genuine 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 King Solomon courted her, she would not like to exchange the purity of her love with power, fame, or fortune.
In her song, the beautiful woman from Shumen said, “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 great reminder for a lot of love relationships today. #