Some people say that the Bible is like a “love letter” from God. That’s hard to take when you’re sitting in the pew, listening to a lector mumble a reading filled with ancient names and places, and you suddenly realize you shouldn’t have drunk that whole glass of water just before leaving the house. Maybe God just isn’t great at writing love letters?
The Song of Songs is a love poem. There’s no question about that. Here’s one line from the Song (2:5):
Strengthen me with raisin cakes,
refresh me with apples,
for I am sick with love.
The Bible is like a raisin cake. “You mean like a scone?” I guess. I can’t say how the Hebrews made their raisin cakes. But the Bible is like one. In both cases, you show up looking for the sweet bits, the fruitful parts, the thing that will leave a taste in your mouth. Sometimes the rest is dry. Sometimes it is crumbly and you can’t hold it all together. But it’s okay, because there are raisins.
This verse is from early in the poem. The beloved—call her the bride, the Church, or the soul—cries out for sustenance as she pines away in love. Vatican II called this cake the “soul of sacred theology.” Every time we read from it at Mass, it is called the “the word of the Lord.” We are always crying out for some word, some food to sustain us.
Sometimes the word is dry to us. Sometimes it has lots of parts and falls apart in our hands. Sometimes we eat it quick without paying any attention. But if we listen and take our time in chewing, we’ll find that it always has fruit in it. God isn’t a bad baker who forgets to put in the fruit. And if you give time to the Scripture, savoring it, even sharing it, you will love it. You will find your mouth watering, your fingers dripping myrrh (Songs 5:5). And next time, there will be new raisins.
Just like in a raisin cake, most of what you read can feel like a doughy container for the good parts. But all of it is nourishing, strengthening, saving. And you can’t always just eat a bunch of raisins.
Photo by Andreas Lischka