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On this Valentine’s Day, or any other day, do you find yourself alone, fingers pressed against your lower lip, whispering breathlessly, “Would only that He would kiss me with the kisses of His mouth!  Would that His left hand were under my head, and His right hand embrace me!  Surely, His love is better than wine.”  Are you longing for God?  Pining for God-the-lover?  Yearning for the divine lover?  

Love-longing, love-pining, love-yearning for God is as old as the Bible itself.

How laced the words of mystics have been with the raw language of desire for God, the beloved lover:  “Please God.  Please let me see Your face, let me hear Your voice; for Your voice is sweet, and Your face is lovely.”  No, nothing new here.  So far, most of this post’s longing, pining, yearning phrases have been lifted right from the Hebrew Bible’s Song of Solomon, also called the Song of Songs.  For many Jews, this sensual love song is an allegory for God’s love for Israel, but Christian mystics like Bernard of Clairvaux have interpreted it as a sizzling tale of betrothal (made and lost) between a person and God.  The twentieth-century Jewish philosopher, Franz Rosenzweig, drew heavily upon the Song of Songs as he sought to understand his personal relationship with God. 

Indeed, for some, love for God is imbued with passionate ardor. Take Mechthild of Magdeburg, a medieval mystic. Her spiritual life unfolds in several stages and the last stage is–yes, a night of love. Burning with desire for God, trembling with longing, Mechthild ascends towards God, moving ever closer in a “flight of love”, until she, at long last, reaches the One she seeks and unites with Him in a supreme moment of ecstasy.  Face to face with this wonder, she “forgets the earth”; she embraces Him, becoming one with Him “as water mingles with wine”;  she wants nothing any more except to remain in God’s embrace until her last breath, joined to Him without end, without measure, without pause. 

Although, for many mystics, it is the human who is restless with love for God, Mechthild “introduced the anguish of desire in God.”  God is sick with love for her.  God burns with desire and looks upon her soul as “a stream in which to cool His ardor.”

As if the prose hasn’t yet been hot, hot, hot enough, Mechthild’s love-sick soul pleads with God to “Cover me with the cloak of your long desire,” “for where two burning desires encounter, there love is perfect.”

Sadly, Mechthild’s rapturous ardor fades away.  For her, the way of love with God “is transitory in this life.”  She observes, from bitter experience, that “This cannot last long.”  

And since there’s nothing new under the sun, there’s a passage in the Song of Songs where the fiancee, abandoned by her lover, seeks, in tears, the one she still loves.

Questions:  Do you love God?  Do you love God erotically?  If you texted God a love note, what would you say?

For those of you who would make God your Valentine, may your pursuit be short and your romance long-lived.

As a Valentine’s Day gift, this post closes with Peter Gabriel‘s lyrics to the song “In Your Eyes,” lyrics about his love for God.

“In Your Eyes”

love I get so lost, sometimes
days pass and this emptiness fills my heart
when I want to run away
I drive off in my car
but whichever way I go
I come back to the place you are

all my instincts, they return
and the grand facade, so soon will burn
without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

in your eyes
the light the heat
in your eyes
I am complete
in your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
in your eyes
the resolution of all the fruitless searches
in your eyes
I see the light and the heat
in your eyes
oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light
the heat I see in your eyes

love, I don’t like to see so much pain
so much wasted and this moment keeps slipping away
I get so tired of working so hard for our survival
I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive

and all my instincts, they return
and the grand facade, so soon will burn
without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside

in your eyes
the light the heat
in your eyes
I am complete
in your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
in your eyes
the resolution of all the fruitless searches
in your eyes
I see the light and the heat
in your eyes
oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light,
the heat I see in your eyes
in your eyes in your eyes
in your eyes in your eyes
in your eyes in your eyes

References:  Emilie Zum Brunn and Georgette Epiney-Burgard, Women Mystics in Medieval Europe, trans. Sheila Hughes (St. Paul, MN:  Paragon House, 1989), 48-9.

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