04 February 2010

Inexpressible Equals Love

After the great biblical event of the Transfiguration, Peter said to Jesus: “Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses; and one for Elijah: not knowing what he said.” It is the “not knowing what he said” part that the Carthusian, Nicholas Kempf (circa 1415-1497) focuses on here in this brief reflection from his “Expositiones Mysticæ Cantica Canticorum.” And as that title suggests, Nicholas Kempf explains Peter’s words by using the Old Testament book of the Song of Songs, a book which is often commented on in mystical theology. Here’s what Nicholas Kempf wrote, which has an underlying theme of encouraging us to make efforts to keep advancing closer to God until we make senseless statements and thus become joyfully reduced to silence.

“The Song of Songs is obscure. It indicates that these songs sung between God and a soul chosen as bride and mated and united to God in the human spirit’s chamber, united in the very image of God are utterly mysterious and completely inexpressible. Not even the bride herself is able to express what she has perceived. When hearts have been moved to jubilation of this sort, the things that result within the spirit cannot be put into conventional and customary words. Just as people drunk with wine lose the ability to talk in a normal fashion, so the bride drunk with sober intoxication speaks in a way intelligible not to anyone and everyone, but only to lovers loving in a similar way. So too, after tasting the sweetness of glory, Peter did not know what he was saying.”