Hugh and Bernard vs. The Nuptial Mystery

Hugh of St. Victor focuses heavily on the significance of sacraments within a marriage. He describes how humiliation, instruction, and exercise occur in the sacraments of marriage. Humiliation is taught to us through the sacraments because they teach us patience and to be humble, instruction because of what we can learn from them, and how we practice what we are taught through exercise. This helps both monks and those who participate in marriage alike because the sacraments that occur between a man and wife also occur between people and God. He cites these three things as the reason that sacraments were instituted. 

Bernard of Clairvaux describes the significance of nuptial imagery through a metaphor of the kiss. He describes how a kiss defines the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit because it creates “their unshakable bond, their undivided love, their indivisible unity” (8.I.2). The kiss that occurs between God and Jesus to create eternal love is mirrored in the union of a couple during the sacramental ceremony of marriage. Due to the fact that the kiss marks the entrance into the unity of marriage and eternal love, it becomes clear that there is a lot of similarities to a relationship with God. The kiss brings people together in a unity and is desired because it brings people together in a way that physically makes them so close that no one could come between them. Monks are able to experience this kiss as well through God as they give up their lives as well to spend all of their time focused on Him. Goodness and truth can be found through the kiss because of how it is a way to understand and learn about someone. 

Clairvaux also writes about the relationship between the breasts and the nuptial mystery. He relates them to the maternal aspects of the church and religion as an establishment. He uses them as symbols for kindness and love as they are used in the role of a wife in the family. He relates them to a brides ablity to be compassionate and to rejoice. The mother feeds her child in sickness and in health similarly to how God is able to feed a monk with his own form of compassion and celebration. This form of feeding is offered to all of the mother’s children equally similarly to how God is able to relate to all of his children the same. Overall, the sacraments (as described by Hugo) combined with the kiss and

Overall, the sacraments (as described by Hugo) combined with the kiss and breasts (as explored by Bernard) in relation to the nuptial mystery can also be experienced by monks in their relationship with God.


1 Comment

  1. I really enjoy your focus on the imagery and metaphorical elements of the Song of Songs and how each author dealt with that accordingly. In this, your post provides an in depth analysis of both the Song of Songs and the authors. I agree with your argument that the three fruits of the sacrament and marriage in relation to God are humiliation, knowledge, and the practice of faithfulness. This is found throughout the writings and is evidenced by the metaphors, which you describe. I wonder in what ways, if at all, the image of the kiss and the breasts in the Song of Songs directly relate to the humiliation and learning described by Hugo from the sacraments. I think the breasts relate to humility in that in order to fully receive God’s love, and participate in the nuptial mystery, and to receive the gifts from the breast that Bernard explores requires humility to recognize the strength of His love.


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