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Independent Study
by Renée Anne Poulin 13-2
Presented to Sr. Karen Lindquist
Collège Notre-Dame

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When God created man, He carved in his heart a special gap. This space, this emptiness in his heart pushes man to search for something to satisfy it. He will not know true peace until his heart finds God, who is Love, and rest in Him. It is on a long and perilous journey that this relationship which God wants and that the heart desires grows into a higher union. This blooming relationship of love between God and man is described in Solomon's Song of Songs as well as in Hannah Hurnard's modern allegory, Hind's Feet on High Places. They both speak of the Christian Bride, who persuaded by her desire for love, goes from the Low Places and undertakes a dangerous journey up the mountains to finally arrive at the High Places of perfect union with the Shepherd, where her deformities and fears become transformed.

The journey begins in the Low Places or Valley of Humiliation, where the desire for more love and freedom is first implanted in the Christian heart. Before the voyage to the High Places can start, there must first of all be a love relationship between the Bride, or Christian, and the Bridegroom, who is Christ. Much-Afraid, the main character in Hind's Feet on High Places, has such a relationship. Working for him, she tends His flocks of sheep in the Valley of Humiliation1. She meets the Shepherd twice a day at a pool and cascade, where she confides in Him and where He restores her2. Their relationship, however, leaves room for improvement. Although she knows that He would never harm her and that He desires her happiness, Much-Afraid, faithful to her name, never completely trusts Him3. Nonetheless, the Shepherd loves her and Much-Afraid is happy as long as He is present to comfort her. With her many deformities and weaknesses, the Bride is far from being perfect. She realizes this and says to her Spouse "[do]4 not consider me that I am brown, because the sun hath altered my colour[.]" Outwardly, she is not beautiful. She has been scorched by the sun, "the natural light that gradually renders her unattractive" for she lives on a worldly, natural level5. Much-Afraid is also very saddened to be hindered in her service by a crooked mouth and crippled feet. "Most earnestly she longed to be completely delivered from these shortcomings and be made beautiful, gracious and strong […] and above all to be made like the Chief Shepherd himself.6" To add to her deformed physical appearance is her interior struggle with fear. She is indeed "Much-Afraid" of many things, as her name indicates. She is scared of pain, of completely trusting7, and most of all, of her Fearing relatives, especially her cousin Craven-Fear8. The Bride in the Song of Songs as well, has not been as attentive as she should have been to her interior life, for she says "my vineyard I have not kept9". Filled with a yearning for a better life, to flee the Low Places and the problems met in it, the Bride decides to start a journey for the High Places. Much-Afraid wants to escape from her family who desires to force her to marry her cousin Craven-Fear. She says to the Shepherd "[…]if only I could escape from this Valley of Humiliation altogether and go to the High Places, completely out of reach of all the Fearings and my other relatives!10" The Shepherd is thrilled to hear that she wants to go up to the mountains11 and promises that He will help her get there. He will make her feet like hind's feet and He will set her in the High Places Himself. She will have to receive a new name, since no fear can inhabit the Kingdom of Love. The flower of Love must bloom in her heart before she arrives at her destination12. He will always be at her side to help her. All she needs is to call out His name and He will come to assist her13. He promises that she will be loved in return once the flower of Love has bloomed14. He will begin the journey with her as He invites her Himself to follow Him: "[a]rise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come.15" It is therefore from the Low Places that the trip of the Bride and of her Beloved will start, set off by her growing want to find refuge and love in the high mountains.

Next, encouraged by the promises of her Shepherd, the Bride begins her journey by taking the road indicated by Him. Since nothing blemished can enter the Kingdom of Love, Much-Afraid must undergo a series of purifications and trials. The Shepherd first brings her to the desert, in the furnace of Egypt, where all of His servants have had to go. There he teaches "many things which otherwise they would have known nothing about.16" He acknowledges that "the time of pruning is come17". To explain to Much-Afraid why it is necessary for her to take such a detour from the mountains, the Shepherd shows her three rooms in the pyramid. The first room is a granary where different grains are being ground and beaten according to their purpose. The Shepherd then says that he "bring[s] [his] people into Egypt that they, too, may be threshed and ground into the finest powder and may become bread corn for the use of others.18" Next, is a smaller room where stood a potter fashioning clay on his wheel. Much-Afraid learns that she must be as the clay who passively and unresistingly lets itself be shaped by the potter, the Shepherd19. Finally, He brings her to a room where gold is being refined of its dross in a furnace. It is in the Shepherd's furnace that hearts are cleansed of all impurities20. Much-Afraid's journey not only takes her to the desert, but also in the Forests of Danger and Tribulation, where it is often very dark and stormy21. Sometimes the mist in the Forest hides the path ahead, forcing the pilgrim to advance with blind faith. Another challenge which Much-Afraid must face are her angry family members who have come to try to persuade her to return to the Valley of Humiliation. Pride, Self-Pity, Resentment, Bitterness and Craven-Fear try to plant doubt in her heart. They are the foxes which the Bride speaks about in the Song of Songs: "Catch us the little foxes that destroy the vines: for our vineyard hath flourished.22" Little foxes eat flowers and if there are no flowers, no fruits can be produced. The groom calls "the bride to her responsibility to guard against any movement of the heart that would allow any destructive force to enter into their love relationship.23" They try to hinder her progress, but as long as the Bride trusts in the Bridegroom, and is vigilant, she will be triumphant. On her journey, Much-Afraid also learns to accept the help of the two guides to which the Shepherd has intrusted her. At first, Sorrow and Suffering appear very frightening to her, but by taking their hand, she finds out that they are there to help her. On the shores of the Sea of Loneliness, for example, Much-Afraid is indeed amazed at "how swiftly they helped her along.24" When Much-Afraid must climb the Injury Precipice, it is Sorrow and Suffering who assist her as well in her ascent. Sorrow and Suffering are also present with the Bride in the Canticle of Canticles. The Bride's hands are dripping with myrrh, a symbol of suffering25, when she opens the door to her Beloved. She has also learned to take suffering in hand. As the Christian pursuits her goal, she learns that she must offer up her own will and to accept the Lord's will with joy. To do this, complete trust is needed and it is by building altars that Much-Afraid abandons herself. Before every big step in her journey, she builds an altar and her offering is consumed26. The biggest sacrifice that is asked by the Shepherd is at the last part of her journey. It is that of offering up the promise that she received when He called her to follow Him27 as well as the flower of "natural human love and desire growing in her heart[.]28 " After this offering, nothing is left in Much-Afraid but her desire to do the will of the Shepherd. The times of purification are over and she is finally ready to enter the Kingdom of Love. It is therefore by following the path indicated by her King, by offering up her will and by trusting Him completely that the Bride can arrive to the threshold of the High Places.

Purified by the trials set before her by the Bridegroom, Much-Afraid is completely transformed and finally finds herself in the Kingdom of Love with her King, in a perfect union of will. She is first of all transformed, not only physically, but also interiorly. Her crippleness is no more. Her mouth is healed in the curative waters and her crippled feet have become hind's feet, as promised29. Her beauty is displayed for all to see. The Daughters of Jerusalem in the Song of Songs declare: "Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?30" The Bridegroom tells the Bride how fair she is when he says "[t]hou art beautiful, O my love, sweet and comely as Jerusalem[.]31 " Much-Afraid's weakness has become strength in God. The flower of human love which once bloomed in her heart is replaced by the flower of true Love32. She now only lives to do the will of the Shepherd since His will has now become her own. Like a married couple, the two become one in all. She realizes how truly united they are when she exclaims "[m]y Beloved is mine and I am his.33" "She is ready in her purity to follow him in any way he wishes to guide her. Her happiness is to surrender to him and obey his leadings.34" Much-Afraid has grown not only because of the trials but because of the lessons that she has learned from them. The Bridegroon first taught her that she must "Accept-with-Joy" all of her present circumstances as His will. Then, He showed her that she must bear the cost of what others do to her patiently, forgiving all wrongdoings35. The most important lesson, however, is that with Love all obstacles can be overcome and surmounting difficulties become "a daily delight"36. There are no barriers to the Shepherd's love. A poor, wretched Much-Afraid can become, against all odds, a glorious and pure "Grace and Glory"37. The Shepherd himself said:

It is also on the High Places that Grace and Glory, formerly Much-Afraid, leaves on her mission of service. From the mountains, she glances at the Valley below. There she sees her relatives living in their isolation, slaves of their fears. The hate which she once had towards her family has turned into compassion39. She desires to share with them all that the Shepherd has given her. Like the waterfall, she wants to give herself in total abandonment, to share with others the life that she has received40. With her hind's feet, she leaps down the mountain with her Shepherd and returns to the Valley below where she will be in the Shepherd's service as a witness to His greatness41. The Bride expresses the same wish to the Bridegroom: "Come, my beloved, let us go forth into the field, let us abide in the villages."42 She is ready to joyfully give all of herself and to produce the much desired fruits in the garden of her heart and in the vineyard. She says to her Shepherd: "Let us get up early to the vineyards, let us see if the vineyard flourish, if the flowers be ready to bring forth fruits, if the pomegranates flourish[.] "43 The King and His bride joyfully work together, united in their love. Therefore, completely enveloped in the loving presence of the Bridegroom in the High Places, the Bride finds her joy and happiness in doing His will, set free from all her fears and infirmities.

At the pinnacle of her long spiritual journey with the Bridegroom, the Bride arrives at the Kingdom of Love, the High Places of union, completely transformed by Her Beloved. The story of their deepening relationship and of its process of growth is described in the Song of Songs as well as in Hind's Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. It is in the transforming union of Love that obstacles are overcome, that the stained become pure, that weakness turns into strength and that the heart, thirsty for love, finds its fill.


Hurnard, Hannah. Hind's Feet on High Places. Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers Inc., 1975.

Maloney, George A. Singers of the New Song. Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1966.

Solomon's Canticle of Canticles (Douay-Rheims Bible),


1. Hannah Hurnard, Hind's Feet on High Places (Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers Inc., 1975), p.17
2. ibid, p.20
3. ibid, p.21
4. Solomon's Canticle of Canticles (Douay-Rheims Bible)(, 1:5
5. George A. Maloney, Singers of the New Song, (Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1966), p.32
6. Hurnard, p.18
7. ibid, p.25
8. ibid, p.21
9. Canticle of Canticles 1:5
11. ibid, p.23
12. ibid, p.24
13. ibid, p.29
14. ibid, p.26
15. Canticle of Canticles 2:10
16. Hurnard, p.85
17. Canticle of Canticles 2:12
18. Hurnard, p.88
19. ibid, p.89
20. ibid, p.89-90
21. ibid, p.143
22. Canticle of Canticles 2:15
23. Maloney, p.56
24. Hurnard, p.94
25. Maloney, p.41
26. Hurnard, p.83-84
27. ibid, p.198
28. ibid, p.211
29. ibid, p.220-221
30. Canticle of Canticles 6:9
31. ibid, 6:3
32. Hurnard, p.226-227
33. Canticle of Canticles 2:16
34. Maloney, p.116
35. Hurnard, p.240-241
36. ibid, p.269
37. ibid, p.226
38. ibid, p.127
39. ibid, p.246-248
40. ibid, p.249
41. ibid, p.252-253
42. Canticle of Canticles 7:11
43. ibid, 7:12

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