“Article 7. Whether it is forbidden to demand the debt on holy days?
“Objection 1. It would seem that a person ought not to be forbidden to ask for the debt on holy days. For the remedy should be applied when the disease gains strength. Now concupiscence may possibly gain strength on a feast day. Therefore the remedy should be applied then by asking for the debt.
“Objection 2. Further, the only reason why the debt should not be demanded on feast days is because they are devoted to prayer. Yet on those days certain hours are appointed for prayer. Therefore one may ask for the debt at some other time.
“[St. Thomas response:] On the contrary, Just as certain places are holy because they are devoted to holy things, so are certain times holy for the same reason. But it is not lawful to demand the debt in a holy place. Therefore neither is it lawful at a holy time.
“I answer that, Although the marriage act is void of sin, nevertheless since it oppresses the reason on account of the carnal pleasure, it renders man unfit for spiritual things. Therefore, on those days when one ought especially to give one’s time to spiritual things, it is not lawful to ask for the debt.
“Reply to Objection 1. At such a time other means may be employed for the repression of concupiscence; for instance, prayer and many similar things, to which even those who observe perpetual continence have recourse.
“Reply to Objection 2. Although one is not bound to pray at all hours, one is bound throughout the day to keep oneself fit for prayer.”
In another part of his Summa, St. Thomas speaks about how weddings must not be celebrated on holy days, adding more reasons why one must abstain from the marital sexual act on certain holy days.
“Article 10. Whether weddings should be forbidden at certain times?
“Objection 1. It would seem that weddings ought not to be forbidden at certain times. For marriage is a sacrament: and the celebration of the others sacraments is not forbidden at those times. Therefore neither should the celebration of marriage be forbidden then.
“… Objection 3. Further, marriages that are contracted in despite of the law of the Church ought to be dissolved. Yet marriages are not dissolved if they be contracted at those times. Therefore it should not be forbidden by a commandment of the Church.
“[St. Thomas’ response:] On the contrary,It is written (Ecclesiastes 3:5): "A time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces."
“I answer that, When the newly married spouse is given to her husband, the minds of husband and wife are taken up with carnal preoccupations by reason of the very newness of things, wherefore weddings are wont to be signalized by much unrestrained rejoicing. On this account it is forbidden to celebrate marriages at those times when men ought especially to arise to spiritual things. Those times are from Advent until the Epiphany because of the Communion which, according to the ancient Canons, is wont to be made at Christmas (as was observed in its proper place, III, 30), from Septuagesima until the octave day of Easter, on account of the Easter Communion, and from the three days before the Ascension until the octave day of Pentecost, on account of the preparation for Communion to be received at that time.
“Reply to Objection 1. The celebration of marriage has a certain worldly and carnal rejoicing connected with it, which does not apply to the other sacraments. Hence the comparison fails.
“… Reply to Objection 3. Since time is not essential to a marriage contracted within the forbidden seasons, the marriage is nevertheless a true sacrament. Nor is the marriage dissolved absolutely, but for a time, that they may do penance for having disobeyed the commandment of the Church. It is thus that we are to understand the statement of the Master (Sent. iv, D, 33), namely that should a marriage have been contracted or a wedding celebrated at the aforesaid times, those who have done so "ought to be separated." Nor does he say this on his own authority, but in reference to some canonical ordinance, such as that of the Council of Lerida, which decision is quoted by the Decretals.”
Question: How can you teach that sensual touches, kisses and various lustful acts are sinful when the Bible allows it? The biblical books called “The Song of Songs” and “Proverbs” directly teaches that sensual touches, kisses and acts are allowed, so you are not right in condemning these acts.
Answer: It is not coincidental that in this day and age when almost all are heretics, many people are falsely interpreting King Solomon’s Song of Songs and Proverbs in a literal way instead of a figurative way (as the Holy Fathers did) that signify the spiritual relationship between God and the soul, Christ and the Church, and Christ and Our Lady. The Fathers never interpreted the Song of Songs or any other book of the Bible as a glorification of sex, and they unanimously rejected and condemned those wicked and lustful people who tried to excuse their sensuality by perverting the Holy Scripture for the sake of their own selfishness, as we have shown.
As said already, a Catholic is bound under pain of mortal sin to obey, consent to and follow the unanimous teaching of the Fathers on everything, as the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council teaches.
A doctrine of faith or morals that is taught by the unanimous consent of the Fathers is part of the Ordinary Magisterium. The Catholic Church infallibly teaches that all biblical doctrines that have been held by the unanimous consensus of the Church Fathers are true and hence, binds all Catholics to believe them also.
Pope Pius IX, First Vatican Council, Session 2, January 6th, 1870, ex cathedra: “I, Pius, bishop of the Catholic Church, with firm faith... accept Sacred Scripture according to that sense which Holy mother Church held and holds, since it is her right to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures; nor will I ever receive and interpret them except according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.”
The Council of Trent in the 16th century was the first to infallibly define that a consensus can indeed make a doctrine part of the Ordinary Magisterium. And it was the first to infallibly define that the only kind of consensus that can do this is the unanimous consensus of the Church Fathers.
Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 4, AD 1546, ex cathedra: “Furthermore, in order to restrain petulant spirits, It decrees, that no one, relying on his own skill, shall, in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures, hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published. Contraveners [that is, those who oppose or contradict this] shall be made known by their Ordinaries, and be punished with the penalties by law established.”
The Church Fathers, well aware of the seemingly fleshly words and sexuality present in the Song of Songs, generally cautioned against reading it until a ‘mature spirituality’ had been obtained, lest the Song be misunderstood and lead the reader into temptation. Origen says, “I advise and counsel everyone who is not yet rid of the vexations of flesh and blood and has not ceased to feel the passion of his bodily nature, to refrain completely from reading this little book.” (Origen, Commentary on the Song of Songs, cited in Anchor Bible Commentary Song of Songs 117)
When asked for advice about what scriptural books a young girl should read, Jerome recommended the Psalms, Proverbs, Gospels, Acts and the Epistles, followed by the rest of the Old Testament. Of the Song however, Jerome counsels caution, saying “… she would fail to perceive that, though it is written in fleshly words, it is a marriage song of a spiritual bridal. And not understanding this, she would suffer from it.” (St. Jerome, Letter cvii, To Laeta, cited in Anchor Bible Commentary Song of Songs 119)
Indeed, “If you wish to understand… for what reason the body was made, then listen: it was made that it should be a temple to the Lord; that the soul, being holy and blessed, should act in it as if it were a priest serving before the Holy Spirit that dwells in you.” (Origen, Exegesis on 1 Corinthians 7:29)
Concerning the Book of Proverbs, St. Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170-236 A.D.), From the Commentary of St. Hippolytus on Proverbs, writes:
““To know wisdom and instruction.” (Prov. 1:2) He who knows the wisdom of God, receives from Him also instruction, and learns by it the mysteries of the Word; and they who know the true heavenly wisdom will easily understand the words of these mysteries. Wherefore he says: “To understand the difficulties of words;” (Prov. 1:3) for things spoken in strange language by the Holy Spirit become intelligible to those who have their hearts right with God.”
St. Hippolytus of Rome goes on to explain that many things mentioned in the Book of Proverbs has a symbolical meaning:
“[On Proverbs 4:25] He “looks right on” who has thoughts free of passion; and he has true judgments, who is not in a state of excitement about external appearances. When he says, “Let thine eyes look right on,” he means the vision of the soul; and when he gives the exhortation, “Eat honey, my son, that it may be sweet to thy palate,” he uses “honey” figuratively, meaning divine doctrine, which restores the spiritual knowledge of the soul. But wisdom embraces the soul also; for, says he, “love her, that she may embrace thee.” And the soul, by her embrace being made one with wisdom, is filled with holiness and purity. Yea more, the fragrant ointments of Christ are laid hold of by the soul’s sense of smell.”
Hence that the Book of Proverbs is to be interpreted spiritually, with “thoughts free of passion” and “with holiness and purity”, just as with the Song of Solomon, and not for the purpose any licentiousness.
St. Hippolytus of Rome goes on to explain Proverbs 5:19 in a spiritual sense—which, to the contrary, is the very verse lustful people interprets in a fleshly sense—and explains that it refers to spiritual wisdom and understanding; and that the hind and following words mentioned in Proverbs 5:19 is to be understood by “the purity of that pleasure”, and in the end he equates all of this with wisdom, that, “like a stag, can repel and crush the snaky doctrines of the heterodox [i.e., those holding unorthodox or heretical doctrines or opinions].”
“[Proverbs 5:19 “Let her be thy dearest hind, and most agreeable fawn: let her breasts [or affection or love] inebriate thee at all times; be thou delighted continually with her love.”] He shows also, by the mention of the creature (the hind), the purity of that pleasure; and by the roe he intimates the quick responsive affection of the wife. And whereas he knows many things to excite, he secures them against these, and puts upon them the indissoluble bond of affection, setting constancy before them. And as for the rest, wisdom, figuratively speaking, like a stag, can repel and crush the snaky doctrines of the heterodox. … The heterodox are the “wicked,” and the transgressors of the law are “evil men,” whose “ways”—that is to say, their deeds—he bids us not enter. … Let her therefore, says he, be with thee, like a roe, to keep all virtue fresh. (Prov. 5:19) And whereas a wife and wisdom are not in this respect the same, let her [that is, wisdom] rather lead thee; for thus thou shalt conceive good thoughts.” (The Extant Works and Fragments of Hippolytus, "On Proverbs," by St. Hippolytus of Rome, 170-236 A.D., vol. 5, Ante-Nicene Fathers)
Concerning this biblical passage, Benson Bible Commentary notes that: “Let her be as the loving hind — Hebrew, as the hind of loves; as amiable and delightful as the hinds are to princes and great men, who used to make them tame and familiar, and to take great delight in them, as has been observed by many writers. … Let her breasts — Rather, her loves, as Houbigant renders דדוה, at all times, in all ages and conditions; not only love her when she is young and beautiful, but when she is old, or even deformed; and be thou always ravished with her love — Love her fervently. It is a hyperbolical expression.”
The Hebrew noun for “affection” is dad and has three other biblical references (the basic meaning of dad is breast or pap), all in Ezekiel.
Since affection (dad) which is synonymous with love, can mean breast, and has correctly been translated as breast in other instances in the bible, that is also probably why most Bible translators have rendered it as breasts in Proverbs 5:19.
However, even some protestant bible versions do translate “breast” in this Bible verse as “love” or “affection”, which we believe is more accurate.
Proverbs 5:19, Revised Standard Version (RSV): “a lovely hind, a graceful doe. Let her affection fill you at all times with delight, be infatuated always with her love.”
Proverbs 5:19, Young’s Literal Translation (YLT): “A hind of loves, and a roe of grace! Let her loves satisfy thee at all times, In her love magnify thyself continually.”
Proverbs 5:19, New Century Version (NCV): “She is as lovely and graceful as a deer. Let her lovealways make you happy; let her love always hold you captive.”
Proverbs 5:19, Good News Translation (GNT): “pretty and graceful as a deer. Let her charms keep you happy; let her surround you with her love.”
It is of note that the approved Knox’s Catholic Translation of the Vulgate, Proverbs 5:19, reads:
“Thy own bride, gentle as a hind, graceful as a doe; be it her bosom that steals away thy senses with the delight of a lover that loves still.”
This differences in interpreting the Hebrew or Greek may also explain why we have seen different translations of this passage cited by early Church writers but without them mentioning the word “breasts”. The reason for this may be because they have interpreted this passage differently, and hence translated it in another sense. That may also explain why St. Hippolytus never mentioned the words “breasts” when commenting on this passage, and why he instead spoke of “affection of the wife.”
Whatever the case, none of the Fathers has ever interpreted breasts or kisses in a sensual way in scripture. According to St. Ambrose, the Breast mentioned in Song of Songs 8:1 is Baptism, and the Kiss is a kiss of mystical peace: “What are the breasts of the church except the sacrament of baptism? And well does he say “sucking,” as if the baptized were seeking him as a draught of snowy milk. “Finding you without,” he says, “I shall kiss you,” that is, finding you outside the body, I embrace you with the kiss of mystical peace. No one shall despise you; no one shall shut you out. I will introduce you into the inner sanctuary and the hidden places of Mother Church, and into all the secrets of mystery, so that you may drink the cup of spiritual grace.” (Consolation on the Death of Emperor Valentinian 75, in The Fathers Of The Church: A New Translation, vol. 22, p. 296)
St. Methodius, On The Abuse of Biblical Passages for the Purpose of Sensual Gratification (c. 311 A.D.): “Now Paul, when summoning all persons to sanctification and purity… in order to silence the ignorant, now deprived of all excuse… that he might take away occasion for the abuse of these passages from those who taught the sensual gratification of the body, under the pretext of begetting children… For men who are incontinent in consequence of the uncontrolled impulses of sensuality in them, dare to force the Scriptures beyond their true meaning, so as to twist into a defence of their incontinence… and they are not ashamed to run counter to the Spirit, but, as though born for this purpose, they kindle up the smouldering and lurking passion, fanning and provoking it; and therefore he, cutting off very sharply these dishonest follies and invented excuses, and having arrived at the subject of instructing them how men should behave to their wives, showing that it should be as Christ did to the Church, "who gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it by the washing of water by the Word," (Ephesians 5:25-26)…” (Banquet of the Ten Virgins, Discourse III, Chapter X.--The Doctrine of the Same Apostle Concerning Purity)
The kisses, breasts, hair, lips, neck, belly, navel, etc. has a spiritual meaning according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers
According to Origen, Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory the Great and the rest of the Fathers and early Christian writers, the breasts, hair, lips, neck, belly, navel, etc. in Song of Songs, Song of Solomon or Canticles of Canticles and related bible passages are the “powers” or “representations” of the soul or of the Church and Christ, or even wisdom itself. According to St. Ambrose (4th century bishop of Milan), commenting on Song of Songs 8:1, “What are the breasts of the church except the sacrament of baptism?” For St. Gregory the Great, the fawns feeding among the lilies in Song of Songs 4:5 are saints who “are unto God a sweet savor of Christ” (quoting 2 Cor. 2:15). Again from St. Ambrose, on the Song of Songs 7:2: “Small, too, are the navel and belly of the soul that ascends to Christ.” (From Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Old Testament, vol. IX)
Pope St. Gregory the Great, Father and Doctor of the Church (died 604): “To create allegories, the divine thoughts are cloaked with what we know; by examining exterior language, we attain an interior understanding. For this reason the Song of Songs employs language characteristic of sensual love to reheat the soul using familiar expressions to revive it from sluggishness and to spur it onto the love that is above using language typical of the love here below. This book mentions kisses and breasts and cheeks and thighs. We must not ridicule the sacred description of these terms but reflect upon the mercy of God. For this book goes so far as to extend the meaning of the language characteristic of our shameful love in such a way that our heart is set on fire with yearning for that sacred love. By discussing the parts of the body, this book summons us to love. Therefore we ought to note how wonderfully and mercifully this book is working within us. However, from where God lowers himself by speaking, he lifts us up there by understanding. We are instructed by the conversations proper to sensual love when their power causes us to enthusiastically burn with love for the Divinity.” (An Exposition on the Songs of Songs, Section 1 & 2; Translated from Corpus Christianorum Series Latina, vol. CXLIV)
Pope St. Gregory the Great: “The Gentiles who were called did not cease kissing their Redeemer’s feet, because they longed for him with uninterrupted love. Hence the bride in the Song of Songs said of this same Redeemer: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.” (Song of Songs 1:2) It is fitting that she desire her Creator’s kiss, as she makes herself ready throughout her love to obey him.” (Forty Gospel Homilies 33, Quoted in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon by J. Robert Wright, Thomas C. Oden, p. 292)
“The song of Songs introduces the bride saying, “Let him kiss me with kisses of his mouth.” (Song of Songs 1:2) Now, by “kiss” we understand not the joining of mouths but the communion of pious soul and divine Word. It is like the bride saying something of this kind, I experienced your words in writing, but I long to hear your very voice as well, I wish to receive the sacred teaching directly from your mouth and to caress it with the lips of my mind.” (Commentary on the Song of Songs 1, Quoted in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon by J. Robert Wright, Thomas C. Oden, p. 292)
Pope St. Gregory the Great: “Let us set this before our eyes: due to its unceasing desire, a soul of any of the chosen ones is set on fire in love for the sight of the bridegroom. Since such a soul lacks the power to perfectly perceive such a sight in this life, it contemplates his eminence and is deeply pierced because of this love. Now a deep piercing—which is born of charity and set on fire by desire—resembles a kiss, for as often as the soul kisses God, it is deeply pierced with love for him. At the present time there are many who really fear the Lord and have received [the grace of] good works but they still do not kiss God because they are not deeply pierced by a love for him at all.” (An Exposition on the Songs of Songs, Section 18; Translated from Corpus Christianorum Series Latina, vol. CXLIV)
Pope St. Gregory the Great: “And of course the kiss of his mouth is the very fullness of interior peace; when we have attained it, there will no longer be anything to seek. This is why it is fittingly added, “FOR YOUR BREASTS ARE BETTER THAN WINE.” (Song of Songs 1:1) Wine is the knowledge of God received by those of us who reside in this life. But we embrace the breasts of the bridegroom when we contemplate him in the eternal fatherland by an embrace of his presence. Therefore let the soul say, “Your breasts are better than wine.” It is as if the soul says, “Great indeed is the knowledge about yourself that you have bestowed on me in this life; great is the wine of your intimate knowledge by which you make me very drunk; but your breasts are better than wine since whatever is presently known about you through faith is transcended by the beauty and loftiness of contemplation.” (An Exposition on the Songs of Songs, Section 19; Translated from Corpus Christianorum Series Latina, vol. CXLIV)
St. Ambrose of Milan, Archbishop, Confessor, Father and Doctor of the Church (died 397): “But the church does not cease to kiss Christ’s feet, and she demands not one but many kisses in the Song of Solomon, since like blessed Mary, she listens to his every saying, she receives his every word, when the gospel or prophets are read, and she keeps all these words in her heart.” (Letter 62, To His Sister, in The Fathers Of The Church: A New Translation, vol. 26, p. 392)
St. Ambrose: “Therefore such a soul also desires many kisses of the Word, so that she may be enlightened with the light of the knowledge of God. For this is the kiss of the Word, I mean the light of holy knowledge. God the Word kisses us, when he enlightens our heart and governing faculty with the spirit of the knowledge of God. The soul that has received this gift exults and rejoices in the pledge of wedded love and says, “I opened my mouth and panted.” (Ps. 119:131; 118:131 in Douay-Rheims Version.) For it is with the kiss that lovers cleave to each other and gain possession of the sweetness of grace that is within, so to speak. Through such a kiss the soul cleaves to God the Word, and through the kiss the spirit of him who kisses is poured into the soul, just as those who kiss are not satisfied to touch lightly with their lips but appear to be pouring their spirit into each other. Showing that she loves not only the appearance of the Word and his face, as it were, but all his inner parts, she adds to the favor of the kisses: “Your breasts are better than wine, and the fragrance of your ointments is above all perfumes.” (Song of Solomon 4:10) She sought the kiss, God the Word poured himself into her wholly and laid bare his breasts to her, that is, his teachings and the laws of the wisdom that is within, and was fragrant with the sweet fragrance of his ointment. Captive to these, the soul is saying that the enjoyment of the knowledge of God is richer than the joy of any bodily pleasure.” (Isaac, or the Soul 3.8-9, in The Fathers Of The Church: A New Translation, vol. 65, p. 16-17)
St. Ambrose: “The church beautiful in [those recently baptized]. So that God the Word says to her: “You are all fair, my love, and there is no blemish in you,” for guilt has been washed away. “Come here from Lebanon, from the beginning of faith, you will pass through and pass on,” (Song of Songs 4:7-8) because, renouncing the world, she passed through things temporal and passed on to Christ. And again, God the Word says to her, “How beautiful and sweet are you made, I love, in your delights! Your stature is become like that of a palm tree, and your breasts like bunches of grapes” (Song of Songs 7:6-8).” (On the Mysteries 7.39, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 2.10:322)
St. Ambrose: ““Your navel is like a round bowl, not wanting tempered wine. Your belly is like a heap of wheat, set about with lilies. Your neck is like a tower of ivory. Your eyes are a pool in Heshbon.” (cf. Song of Songs 7:2-4) The good navel of the soul, capable of receiving all virtues, is like a bowl, fashioned by the author of faith himself (Heb. 12:2). For in a bowl wisdom has mixed her wine, saying, “Come, eat my bread and drink the wine which I have mingled for you.” (Prov. 9:5) This navel, therefore, fashioned with all the beauty of the virtues, does not lack mixed wine. His belly also was filled not only with the wheaten food of justice, as it were, but also with that of grace, and it bloomed with sweetness like a lily (Isaiah 31:5).” (Consolation on the Death of Emperor Valentinian 96, in The Fathers Of The Church: A New Translation, vol. 22, pp. 293-94)
Bishop Theodoret of Cyrus (died c. 457): “She is admitted to the inner chamber, the quarters and rooms of the bridegroom, and boastfully says to her own retinue, “The king introduced me into his chamber,” (Song of Solomon 1:4) that is, he revealed to me his hidden purposes, the plan concealed from ages and generations he made known to me, the treasuries obscure, hidden, and unseen he opened to me, in keeping with the prophecy of Isaiah.” (Commentary on the Song of Songs 1, Quoted in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon by J. Robert Wright, Thomas C. Oden, p. 295)
St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Archbishop, Confessor, Father and Doctor of the Church (died 386): “You wish to know the place? He says in the Canticles, “I came down to the nut garden” (Song of Solomon 6:11: A Type of the Passion of Christ); for it was a garden where he was crucified.” (Catechetical Lectures 14.5, in The Fathers Of The Church: A New Translation, vol. 65, p. 16-17)
St. Caesarius of Arles, Archbishop of Arles (died 542): “It is said concerning the church of the Gentiles, “I am dark and beautiful, O daughter of Jerusalem.” (Song of Solomon 1:5) Why is the church dark and beautiful? She is dark by nature, beautiful by grace. Why dark? “Indeed, in guilt was I born, and in sin my mother conceived me.” (Ps. 51:5; 50:7 in Douay-Rheims Version.) Why beautiful? “Cleanse me of sin with hyssop, that I may be purified; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Ps. 51:7; 50:9 in Douay-Rheims Version.)” (Sermon 12.4.1, in The Fathers Of The Church: A New Translation, vol. 47, p. 209)
St. Jerome, Hermit, Priest, Confessor, Bible Translator, Theologian, Father and Doctor of the Church (died 420): “Born, in the first instance, of such parentage we are naturally black, and even when we have repented, so long as we have not scaled the heights of virtue, we may still say: “I am black but comely, O you daughters of Jerusalem.” (Song of Solomon 1:5) But you will say to me, “I have left the home of my childhood; I have forgotten my father, I am born anew in Christ. What reward do I receive for this?” The context shows—“The king shall desire your beauty.” This, then, is the great mystery. “For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be” not as is there said, “of one flesh,” (Ephesians 5:31-32) but “of one spirit.” Your bridegroom is not haughty or disdainful; He has “married an Ethiopian woman.” (Numbers 12:1) When once you desire the wisdom of the true Solomon and come to Him, He will avow all His knowledge to you; He will lead you into His chamber with His royal hand; (Song of Solomon 1:4) He will miraculously change your complexion so that it shall be said of you, “Who is this that goes up and has been made white?”” (Letter 22.1, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 2.6:22-23)
St. Hippolytus of Rome, Priest and Martyr (died 235): “[On Song of Solomon 1:4]“The king introduced me to his treasures.” Who is this king, if not Christ himself? And what are these treasures, if not his chambers? This is the people who say, “We will rejoice and delight in you,” for he calls everyone. First, it tells us about the past, then it reveals a time of penance in the future: “We will rejoice and delight in you.” “I loved your breasts more than wine,” not the wine that was mixed by Christ, surely, but the wine whereby Noah previously languished in drunkenness, the wine that deceived Lot. “We loved your fonts of milk more than this wine” because breasts were the commandments given by Christ [in the law]; they delight but certainly do not inebriate. For this reason, indeed, the apostles said, “Do not drink so much wine that you become drunk.” (Eph. 5:18) Therefore the beloved says, “I loved your breasts more than wine; righteousness loves you,” because those who follow the way of righteousness are those who love you, whereas unbelievers hate you and deserve retribution from the judge.” (Treatise on the Song of Songs 3.1.4, Quoted in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon by J. Robert Wright, Thomas C. Oden, p. 295)
Bishop Gregory of Elvira (died c. 392): “For thus is it called the Canticle of Canticles, inasmuch as it is above every canticle that Moses and Mary in Exodus and Isaiah and Habakkuk and others sang. These are better canticles because they give praise to the Lord with joyful mind and soul for the liberation of the people, or for their conversion, or in gratitude for the divine works. Here they are superior also because the voice of the singing church and of God is heard. Because the divine and human are united with on another, therefore, it is called the Canticle of Canticles, that is, the best of the best.” (Explanation of the Song of Songs 1.2, in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon by J. Robert Wright, Thomas C. Oden, p. 289)
St. Augustine of Hippo, Bishop, Philosopher, Theologian, Father and Doctor of the Church (died 430): “The Canticle of Canticles sings a sort of spiritual rapture experienced by holy souls contemplating the nuptial relationship between Christ the King and his queen-city, the church. But it is a rapture veiled in allegory to make us yearn for it more ardently and rejoice in the unveiling as the bridegroom comes into view—the bridegroom to whom the canticles sings, “The righteous love you,” and the hearkening bride replies, “There is love in your delights.”” (City of God 17.20, in The Fathers Of The Church: A New Translation, vol. 24, p. 77)
Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea (died c. 340): “And as we are examining His Name, the seal of all we have said may be found in the oracle of Solomon the wisest of the wise, where he says in the Song of Songs: “Thy name is as ointment poured forth.” (Song of Songs 1:3) Yea, he being supplied with divine wisdom, and thought worthy of more mystic revelations about Christ and His Church, and speaking of Him as Heavenly Bridegroom, and her as Bride...” (Proof of the Gospel 4.16, Quoted in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon by J. Robert Wright, Thomas C. Oden, p. 293)
Cassiodorus, Roman statesman and writer (died c. 585): “In short, you deserve Christ’s kiss and the continuance of your virginal glory forever, for these words are spoken to you: “Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth, for your breasts are better than wine, smelling sweet of the best ointments,” (Songs of Solomon 1:1) and the other verses which that divine book includes with its mystical proclamation.” (Exposition of the Psalms, Preface, in Ancient Christian Writers: The Works of the Fathers in Translation 51:42)
Origen, biblical scholar and theologian (died c. 254): “We must not, however, overlook the fact that in certain versions we find written “for your sayings are better than wine,” where we read “for your breasts are better than wine.” (Song of Solomon 1:4) But although it may seem that this gives a plainer meaning in regard to the things about which we have discoursed in the spiritual interpretation, we ourselves keep to what the Seventy interpreters wrote in every case. For we are certain that the Holy Spirit willed that the figures of the mysteries should be roofed over in the Divine Scriptures, and should not be displayed publicly, and in the open air.” (Commentary on the Song of Songs 1.3, in Ancient Christian Writers: The Works of the Fathers in Translation 26:74)
St. Dionysius the Areopagite, Bishop of Athens (1st century): “And in the Songs there are those passionate longings fit only for prostitutes. There are too those other sacred pictures boldly used to represent God, so that what is hidden may be brought out into the open and multiplied, what is unique and undivided may be divided up, and multiple shapes and forms be given to what has neither shape nor form. All this is to enable the one capable of seeing the beauty hidden within these images to find that they are truly mysterious, appropriate to God, and filled with a great theological light. But let us not suppose that the outward face of these contrived symbols exists for its own sake. Rather, it is the protective garb of the understanding of what is ineffable and invisible to the common multitude. This is so in order that the most sacred things are not easily handled by the profane but are revealed instead to the real lovers of holiness. Only these latter know how to pack away the workings of childish imagination regarding the sacred symbols. They alone have the simplicity of mind and the receptive, contemplative power to cross over to the simple, marvelous, transcendent truth of the symbols.” (Letter IX, in Pseudo-Dionysius: The Complete Works, pp. 282-83)