Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What We're Reading Now: St. Bernard on Song of Songs

Lately I've been reading through St. Bernard's four volumes of sermons on the Song of Songs.  I find it both spiritually edifying and historically interesting.

Frequently, St. Bernard's descriptions of the moral terpitude of twelfth-century Europe sound scarcely any different from contemporary American culture.  Truly there is "nothing new under the sun."

St. Bernard's style of exegesis is certainly a far cry from the methods one learns in modern graduate programs in Scripture.  In truth, St. Bernard often simply uses his text—typically a single verse or part of a verse from the Song—to provide him with a theological or spiritual theme which he then expounds.

And he takes his time!  I'm up to about his twenty-fifth sermon, and he is still only about three verses into the first chapter! 

One can ask if there is any legitimacy to his method, or if the saint is simply engaging in eisegesis—that is, reading his theology into the text.

I think one can ground St. Bernard's method theologically and philosophically, if one has a robust notion of the creation of mankind in the image of God.  If such is the case, human love does truly mirror the love which resides in God between the persons of the Trinity, and is expressed to man through the processions of the Son and Spirit.  So the Song of Songs, which in the first instance is an exploration of the phenomenon of human love, can be used as the basis for insights into the love of God and our love for him.

1 comment:

De Maria said...

You said:
One can ask if there is any legitimacy to his method, or if the saint is simply engaging in eisegesis—that is, reading his theology into the text.

I am of the opinion that it is impossible for a Catholic to commit eisegesis. And it is impossible for a non-Catholic not to.

You don't believe me? Read this:

113 2. Read the Scripture within "the living Tradition of the whole Church". According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church's heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God's Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture (". . . according to the spiritual meaning which the Spirit grants to the Church").

Unless we read the Scriptures according to the Traditions of the Catholic Church, we won't understand the Scriptures and will be in danger of preaching false doctrine.

Everyone seems to forget that Jesus Christ established Tradition. And the Apostles wrote the New Testament based upon those Traditions.

I know one thing. When I came back to the Church, I began by following many of the wonderful Converts to our faith from Protestantism. And they sometimes mentioned this idea of "reading into Scripture" as though it were a bad thing. So, I tried to become a blank slate and look to discover Catholicism in the Scriptures.

But I began to notice that the Saints did not use this methodology. St. Scott Hahn ;) led me to that conclusion when reading the Scripture, he said, "look at the assumptions". And the assumptions were all Catholic.

At that point, the door to understanding Scripture was opened wide.

And it is impossible for non-Catholics not to read their own beliefs into Scripture. Take, for instance, Sola Scriptura. Where is it in Scripture? It isn't there. But Protestants put it there.

That's just one example.


De Maria