Man: “You have ravished my heart,
my sister, my bride,
You have ravished my heart
with one glance of your eyes” (SoS 4:9)

Woman: “My lover [is] radiant and outstanding among thousands.” (5:10)

Man: “One alone is my love, my perfect one.” (6:9)

Woman: “I belong to my lover; his yearning is for me.” (7:11)

Man: “You are beautiful in every way my friend,
There is no flaw in you.” (4:7)

Woman: “Set me as a seal upon your heart…
For Love is strong as Death…
Its arrows of fire, flames of the divine.
Deep waters cannot quench love.” (8:6-7)

This poetic dialogue of the lovers captured in Song of Songs is said to portray the ideal form of human love. As such, it is interesting to seek the truths concealed within this lost art of romantic conversing. What is it that makes the love between one man and one woman ideal? What is it that makes it last?

The first theme that resounds within the lover’s playful banter is the theme of first priority. Both lovers place the other as first above all else in this world—as “radiant” among all men, or “most beautiful” among all women. It is this first devotion that is the necessary foundation for all other expressions of love and affirmation to build on.

It is not within our human nature to have a split heart or a fragmented devotion. No one can be the best at all occupations; no one can get their doctorate in all subjects; no one can become an expert of all skill sets. Each person must choose a focus. We must each search our hearts to find the passions that lie there and focus on nurturing them to the fullness of their given potentials. If not, if one attempts to pursue all things in this world with equal vigor, that person will be left drained and always inferior in each category to the person who is wholly devoted to perfecting that one task. So, too, is it with love.

We have but one life, one heart, one complete devotion to give. If it is Holy Matrimony that you are called to, then it is that one person who you will vow to love—beyond all else in this world—forever. This becomes your main task at hand, the passion and love of your heart that you have chosen to be devoted to pursuing and nurturing to the fullness of all that love is capable of being. Love then becomes the supreme priority of your being.

The second overarching theme that runs throughout the lover’s canticles is the theme of being other-focused. Meaning that each speaks only of their lover and rarely of themselves. Just as spouses vow to place the needs of their beloved above their own, this is a necessary shift that must occur in order for ideal human love to flourish. The entire poem collection in Song of Songs bounces back and forth between the man’s proclamation of his “beautiful one,” and the woman speaking of “her lover,” “him whom [her] soul loves.” It is constantly a pursuit of the other and a desire for the other.

Too often in love we become selfish. We use the other to benefit ourselves or fulfill our own needs. We think of all that the other person should be doing for us and forget to seek out what we could be doing to express our love for them. After all, when marriage vows are made each person makes a vow to love, not a vow to be loved. Each vow stands alone and untouched by conditional circumstances—which is why the vows are accompanied by phrases such as “in sickness and in health…in good times and in bad…until death do us part.” The focus then shifts from self, to the other; from what will benefit me, to how can I benefit the one “whom my soul loves.”

It is when both spouses fully embody and live out these vows, as expressed in these love proclamations above, that their love becomes a harmonious symphony of giving and receiving; of loving and being loved. This is the love we have been made for and the one which our hearts most desire. A total, complete, prioritized, whole, life-giving love.

Ultimately human love is ideal only so long as it is reflecting Love itself, Christ’s love for His Own Bride, His people. He was the first to say that we must “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” shedding light on the importance of prioritizing love and a complete gift of self above all else in this world. He also said, “there is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for a friend.” If it is Matrimony that you are called to, then it is your spouse that you are being asked to die for; as Christ died for us.

Your eternal pursuit, admiration, and love of your beloved will only come by following Christ’s example of selflessly pursuing and giving in the name of love. It will only be by the “flames of the divine,” His love flowing through us, that our love will burn with an unquenchable strength. And it will only be in this fullness of love, that our souls will find their joyful peace.

For in the beginning it was all for love,
And so too will it be in the end.