Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for
you as yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me,
and bend your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new….
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

John Donne, Holy Sonnet XIV

In the sixth century, a new accent on the relationship between Jesus and his followers emerged which differed from earlier contemplative views in the West. The image of Christ as Bridegroom of the Soul suggest Read More
Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for
you as yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me,
and bend your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new….
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

John Donne, Holy Sonnet XIV

In the sixth century, a new accent on the relationship between Jesus and his followers emerged which differed from earlier contemplative views in the West. The image of Christ as Bridegroom of the Soul suggested the relationship between the devout Christian and Jesus was one of the most intimate - and, at times, the most erotic - of relationships. The acceptance of Jesus into one’s life was seen as an experience as profound and as emotionally moving as the most passionate of love affairs, an experience which would purge one’s soul, fill it with Christ’s love, and mystically unite the faithful with God.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Christ crowned with Thorns

Reni's image of Christ crowned with thorns highlights the humanity and humility of Christ. Christ's passion connects him on a deeply personal level to his Christian followers.

Guido Reni (1575-1642).
c. 1622-1623
Oil on canvas
Acc. no. 90/179. PMA:J99.1712.
© Art Gallery of Ontario.


The whole world is not worth the day on which the Song of Songs
was given to Israel, for all the Scriptures are holy, but the Song of
Songs is the Holy of Holies.

Rabbi Aqiba

In the first century, at the Council of Jamnia, Jewish sages gathered to consider what texts should be included in the sacred scriptures. Rabbi Aqiba, an esteemed Jewish scholar, persuasively argued that the Song of Songs was divine writ; indeed, that this great work was the apex of Jewish scripture. For the Jews of this period the Song of Songs was a set of poems on the sanctity of love and of the love of God for Israel. Christians saw in this text an allegory for the intimate relationship between Christ and the church. The eloquent lyricism of the Song's poetry and the lush descriptions of the physical and spiritual union between the lover and the beloved express the profound passion of the lover of humankind, Jesus, for each human being. God, the lover of humankind, woos Read More
The whole world is not worth the day on which the Song of Songs
was given to Israel, for all the Scriptures are holy, but the Song of
Songs is the Holy of Holies.

Rabbi Aqiba

In the first century, at the Council of Jamnia, Jewish sages gathered to consider what texts should be included in the sacred scriptures. Rabbi Aqiba, an esteemed Jewish scholar, persuasively argued that the Song of Songs was divine writ; indeed, that this great work was the apex of Jewish scripture. For the Jews of this period the Song of Songs was a set of poems on the sanctity of love and of the love of God for Israel. Christians saw in this text an allegory for the intimate relationship between Christ and the church. The eloquent lyricism of the Song's poetry and the lush descriptions of the physical and spiritual union between the lover and the beloved express the profound passion of the lover of humankind, Jesus, for each human being. God, the lover of humankind, woos and animates all loving relationships.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Song of Songs IV

Chagall's interpretations of the Song of Songs communicate the ebullient love of Bride and Groom through a vibrant palette of colours and a playful interaction of forms.

Marc Chagall (1887-1985).
Musée national Message Biblique Marc Chagall.
c. 1958
Oil on paper
PMA:J99.1647.
© Succession Marc Chagall/ADAGP (Paris)/SODRAC (Montreal) 1999.


..the reason for loving God is God Himself; and the measure of love due to Him is immeasurable…

Bernard of Clairvaux, On Loving God

In the early twelfth century, there were few individuals who so completely embodied the thought and pieties of the age as Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153). Having entered a monastery at twenty-two, Bernard practiced the renuncation of physical comforts - eating little, sleeping hardly at all - in order to devote himself entirely to spiritual matters. It was the love of Christ and the desire for union with the divine that animated Saint Bernard. His writings speak of "the deepest desires of the holy soul", of uniting with Jesus through our common humanity. The kiss of Jesus, a kiss of infinite suffering, a kiss of infinite compassion, enabled believers to join their humanity to that of Jesus. This kiss wed the devout to Christ and invited them into the chamber of his love, a sacred space, a bridal chamber, a place for the "imparting of joys, the revelation of secrets."
..the reason for loving God is God Himself; and the measure of love due to Him is immeasurable…

Bernard of Clairvaux, On Loving God

In the early twelfth century, there were few individuals who so completely embodied the thought and pieties of the age as Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153). Having entered a monastery at twenty-two, Bernard practiced the renuncation of physical comforts - eating little, sleeping hardly at all - in order to devote himself entirely to spiritual matters. It was the love of Christ and the desire for union with the divine that animated Saint Bernard. His writings speak of "the deepest desires of the holy soul", of uniting with Jesus through our common humanity. The kiss of Jesus, a kiss of infinite suffering, a kiss of infinite compassion, enabled believers to join their humanity to that of Jesus. This kiss wed the devout to Christ and invited them into the chamber of his love, a sacred space, a bridal chamber, a place for the "imparting of joys, the revelation of secrets."

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Admission of Saint Bernard to the Cistercian Order

In 1112 Bernard sought a more vigorous monastic life by leaving a Benedictine abbey and joining the Cistercians.

Gaspar de Crayer (1584-1669).
Art Gallery of Ontario
c. 1660
Oil on canvas
Acc. No. 95/141. PMA:J99.1632.
© Art Gallery of Ontario.


On this later day, a woman runs to grace who earlier ran to guilt. In the evening she seeks Christ who in the morning knew she had lost Adam … She who had taken perfidy from paradise hastens to take faith from the sepulchre; she hastens to snatch life from death who had snatched death from life.

Peter Chrysologus, Sermon on Matthew 28:1

For the first twenty-nine years of her life, St. Mary of Egypt (5th century) shared little else with the Virgin Mary than a name. A prostitute from the age of twelve, Mary of Egypt subjected herself to every form of abuse and self-hatred until, at the age of twenty-nine, her curiosity roused her to join a pilgrimage for the Elevation of the Cross in Jerusalem. When she arrived at the church in Jerusalem, Mary found her entrance blocked by an imperceptible, irresistible spiritual force. The depravity of her existence suddenly assailed her and she begged the Blessed Virgin to have mercy upon her. Instantly, the barriers that had stopped her dissolved. Almost as quickly, Mary's unhealthy spiritual accretions dissipated. For the remainder of her life, she lived in simplicity and piet Read More
On this later day, a woman runs to grace who earlier ran to guilt. In the evening she seeks Christ who in the morning knew she had lost Adam … She who had taken perfidy from paradise hastens to take faith from the sepulchre; she hastens to snatch life from death who had snatched death from life.

Peter Chrysologus, Sermon on Matthew 28:1

For the first twenty-nine years of her life, St. Mary of Egypt (5th century) shared little else with the Virgin Mary than a name. A prostitute from the age of twelve, Mary of Egypt subjected herself to every form of abuse and self-hatred until, at the age of twenty-nine, her curiosity roused her to join a pilgrimage for the Elevation of the Cross in Jerusalem. When she arrived at the church in Jerusalem, Mary found her entrance blocked by an imperceptible, irresistible spiritual force. The depravity of her existence suddenly assailed her and she begged the Blessed Virgin to have mercy upon her. Instantly, the barriers that had stopped her dissolved. Almost as quickly, Mary's unhealthy spiritual accretions dissipated. For the remainder of her life, she lived in simplicity and piety in the Egyptian desert, a model of repentance, of renewed purity, and of the recovery of the fullness of life.

© 2000, CHIN. All Rights Reserved.

Saint Mary Magdalene

Within the Christian tradition Mary Magdalene and Mary of Egypt became icons of repentance since they were identified with prostitution and the recovery of the fullness of life. An echo of past life is captured by the artist.

Michael Wolgemut (1434-1519) and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff (d.1494).
Das Buch der Chroniken und Geschichten
c. 1493
Engraving
PMA:J99.1856.
© The Provincial Museum of Alberta.


Saint Mary Magdalene

This conveys the profundity of her love for Jesus by combining her plaintive glance towards the heavens with a lithe sensuality, again, an echo of her past.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680)
Duomo Siena
c. 1661-1662
Sculpture
PMA: J99.1839.
© The Provincial Museum of Alberta.


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Understand the concept of Jesus as bridegroom;
  • Be able to summarize key events in the theology of Jesus as bridegroom through the ages.

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