Good Zeal

Beauty before breakfast

This – the season when flowers appear in the land – is the season in which we read the Song of Solomon during Lauds. I have “First Choir” this week, which means that it is my turn to do the scripture reading. I cannot imagine a better way to commence the morning than with Solomon’s beautiful Song. Its words leap gracefully across the page, like gazelles, or like young deer. My voice chases after them, wholly inadequate to the task, yet delighted nonetheless to savor such beautiful words so early in the morning.

I always approach proclaiming scripture in public with a strange mixture of joy and trembling – nothing could be more delightful to read, but who am I to read it? But this week, reading in Choir is nothing but pure delight. The sheer beauty of the Song overrides any sense of human inadequacy and so my soft-spoken, too-quiet voice happily tracks gazelles and deer through the blooming vineyards of a beautiful Song.

And all this before breakfast. What better way to welcome the morning?

Postscript: This is also the season of open windows in our chapel. Enjoy these photos taken from the chapel and sacristy this morning (looking toward the north, east, and south), and imagine the birdsong that joins our voices as we gather to chant the Psalms.

By the way, the Song of Solomon has long been a favorite of monastics. It is understood allegorically to be a song about the relationship between the soul and God. The Middle Ages saw a flowering of monastic commentary on the Song, of which St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s Sermons on the Song of Songs is probably the most famous.

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