Christos Yannaras’ Variations on the Song of Songs (2005)

The long tradition of commentary on this most steamy book of the Bible continues, although what the contemporary Greek thinker Christos Yannaras offers is not so much commentary as a series of reflections, almost responses to the text, which are introduced in musical terms. They describe territory familiar to many people. Hence, the words My beloved is mine and I am his. He pastures his flock amongst the liliesyield a Modulatio that reads in part:

‘When love is born, life is born. Marvelling, we sense the poverty of life being transformed into an unexpected richness. The treadmill of our daily routine becomes a cause for celebration, because the ordinariness of it now embodies the reciprocity of relation. Time become timeless, and space spaceless…’

But there follow the words They beat me, they wounded me. They took away my veil…all girt with swords and expert in war. These trigger an Appoggiatura:
‘…An insignificant lapse of the Other, some oversight, inappropriate behaviour, action with an ulterior motive, a response to my thirst that falls short of my expectation, makes me open my eyes to a contrary revelation: suddenly the Other becomes remote, subject to space and time. He is aloof, altered. In relation to my own yearning for life he seems timid and miserly, and along with him everything begins to diminish, all things become objects again, prompting me to measure and calculate my emotional investment. If we had truly loved, if we had surrendered ourselves honestly, perhaps at the first quarrel we would have recognised something of our own inadequacies. Now, shocked, we uncover a host of our own failures and mistaken expressions of desire, ulterior motives and our lack of response to the thirst of the Other. It seems unbelievable. Was this my love? Did I create such a void of loneliness in the soul of the Other, whom I adored? Is this the insurmountable wall which the mode of nature – the fortifier of the ego – raises between lovers?’

Such writing provides an excellent introduction to the thinking of Yannaras, described by the Archbishop of Canterbury as ‘perhaps one of the most significant Christian philosophers in Europe.’

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