Mysteries of the Song of Songs

Those of you, who according to the advice of St. Paul, have stripped off the old man with his deeds and desires as you would a filthy garment and have wrapped ourselves by the purity of your lives in the bright garments of the Lord which he displayed upon the mount of Transfiguration; you who have put on the Lord Jesus Christ with his holy robe and have been transformed with him into the state which is free from passion and more divine, listen to the mysteries of The Song Of Songs. Enter the inner chamber of the chaste bridegroom and clothe yourselves with the white


Gregory of Nyssa

of pure, chaste thoughts. Let no one bring passionate, fleshly thoughts or a garment of conscience unsuitability for the divine nuptials. Let no one be bound up in his own thoughts, or drag the pure words of the bridegroom and the bride down into earthly, irrational passions. Anyone who entertains such shameful illusions should be cast out from the company of those who share the nuptial joys to the place of weeping [Matt 22:10-13]. I issue this warning before entering upon the mystical contemplation of the Song of Songs. Through the words of the Song the soul is escorted to an incorporeal, spiritual, and pure union with God. For God, who “wishes all to be saved and to come to the recognition of the truth” [1 Tim 2:4], shows the most perfect and blessed way of salvation here – I mean the way of love. For some there is salvation by fear: we contemplate the threat of punishment in hell unsettle avoid evil. Further, there are those who, because of the hope of the reward held out for a life piously lived, conduct themselves virtuously. They do not possess the good out of love but by the expectation of a recompense. On the other hand, the person who is hastening to spiritual perfection rejects fear. (Such a disposition is servile, and the person with the disposition does not remain with the master out of love. He does not run away out of fear of being scourged.) Rather, the person seeking perfection disdains even rewards: he does not want to give the impression that he prefers the gift to the one who bestows it. He loves “with his whole heart and soul and strength” [Dt 6:5] not any of the things that come from God, but him who is the source of all good things. This, then, is the attitude which he commands to the souls of all who listen to him, for he summons to us to share his own life.

 “Commentary on the Song of Songs”, by Gregory of Nyssa, translated by Casimir McCambley.


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