The Song of Songs in the Bible has long held a special place in the hearts of monks who espoused the mystical theology of the Catholic church. Commentary on this erotic love poetry was taken up by Origen, St. John of the Cross, and Thomas Merton. But perhaps the most famous and illustrious interpretation was the one offered by Bernard of Clairvaux, a twelfth-century monastic reformer. His examination of the Song of Songs comprises 86 sermons composed over a period of 18 years.
Bernard of Clairvaux founded the Cistercian order and was its charismatic leader for 35 years. He saw the Song of Songs as an allegory of the love of God that can be experienced through contemplation. Behind the passages about the loveliness of Jesus and the desire to kiss him on the mouth is a deep yearning for the love of God and a need to be united with Him. As Ephrem Arcement points out in the foreword, notions about romantic love were circulating in Europe at the time, and Bernard of Clairvaux may have been responding to this phenomenon with his sermons on having an intimate relationship with God.
Intimacy In Prayer: Wisdom from Bernard of Clairvaux is part of the Pauline Books & Media series Classic Wisdom Collection which includes volumes on Therese of Lisieux, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Catherine of Siena, Thomas a Kempis, and others.