How to become an anchoritic courtesan, part two

December 2, 2009 Danae Klimt
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You are fascinated by religion from a very young age.  Your parents do not go to church, or say grace or do anything religious at home, but your mother insists that you go to church, first with your older sister to the Lutheran church where she was confirmed, and later to the little Episcopal church only a block up the street.  Your mother is full of stories of the days when she used to sing in the choir of a church very like yours, and she comes to every church supper and bazaar although not to the services.

The beauty of church, the silk vestments, the candles and incense, the language of the Prayerbook, the music of the hymns, makes a deep impression on you, one that will last a lifetime.  When you discover a Bible at home, not a child’s Bible with a few words and many pictures but a proper Revised Standard Version, you read it with the same curiosity you bring to books about Hinduism and Greek mythology and ancient Egypt and the Mayas.  And you discover in it more poetry, more memorable language–language that makes your face grow hot, makes you shift guiltily in your seat, the kind of language that you never expected to find in The Bible.

O that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth!
For your love is better than wine….

As an apple tree among the trees of the wood,
so is my beloved among young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house,
and his banner over me was love.

How graceful are your feet in sandals,
O queenly maiden!
Your rounded thighs are like jewels,
the work of a master hand.
Your navel is a rounded bowl
that never lacks mixed wine.
Your belly is a heap of wheat,
encircled with lilies.
Your two breasts are like two fawns,
twins of a gazelle.

Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm;
for love is strong as death,
jealousy is cruel as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
a most vehement flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.

The word “erotic” is not yet in your vocabulary, nor do you connect these shocking words with the paintings of a blond-haired, blue-eyed, half-naked Jesus in your child’s Bible, Jesus being baptized, Jesus on the cross, his muscular arms and chest and belly exposed, and the curious feelings those pictures evoke from you, the sense that there is maybe something vaguely wrong with those feelings.

The connection comes a few years later, as you listen to one of the seven Good Friday sermons your rector offers, on the Seven Last Words of Christ.  What dear old Father F. said then fades from your memory, but not your reaction: The thought that Jesus could be like your boyfriend.  You are only twelve or thirteen, and the notion of “boyfriend” barely has any sexual ideas attached, yet the thrill is there, the same thrill that attended your discovery of the Song of Solomon, the erotic secret hidden in the heart of the Scriptures.  The connection between the erotic and the spiritual has been made, and it will never go away.

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Entry Filed under: The Anchoritic Courtesan

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