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Francine and Byron Pirola: A love stronger than death

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A lifetime of love, faith and reading The Catholic Weekly: Denis and Claire Garty relax at home in Wyoming as Claire holds a photo of the couple on their wedding day. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Denis and Claire Garty relax at home in Wyoming on the NSW Central Coast as Claire holds a photo of the couple on their wedding day. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli

Biblical poems offer insights on human and divine love

“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave.” (Songs 8:6). This famous verse from the bible is a popular choice for weddings, yet it could also be the summary statement of the Easter mystery.

The Song of Songs is one of the most intriguing books of the bible. Comprised of love poetry between an unnamed woman and a man (presumed to be King Solomon), it is rich in romantic metaphor and sexual innuendo.

As we prepare for the Easter mystery this verse is worthy of contemplation.

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Set me as a seal…

A seal is the formal sign of authenticity of the author of a document. To set as a seal upon one’s heart, upon one’s arm, is to fully commit oneself to the other.

We could think of it almost like a tattoo; a permanent, indelible mark that indicates our irrevocable commitment for life. ‘On our arm’ it is a visible, external statement of our vow to the world, similar to the statement made by our wedding rings.

‘On our heart’, it is an interior commitment to psycho-emotional fidelity – a promise to keep our spouse deep within our affections and priorities.

The lovers in the Song of Songs know that the intimacy they share, and plan to share, must be protected by the promise of fidelity. Their union will be guarded by a covenant belonging and will enable them to fully and freely give themselves to each other without fear of abandonment or rejection.

Fidelity is more than just an external physical expression and behaviour; it is equally an internal disposition.

We can all appreciate the truth of this. Even more than the outward statement of fidelity that we made in our wedding vows, we long to be secure in the knowledge that the heart of our beloved is turned towards us.

Strong as death, fierce as the grave

When we were preparing for our wedding, we had a discussion about the wedding vows – notably ‘till death do us part’. At the ages of 21 and 27, we were young among our peers to be walking down the aisle.

It certainly is no trivial thing to be committing the rest of one’s life to another; committing to love ‘in good times AND bad’. Few brides and grooms give sufficient consideration to the full extent of what those ‘bad times’ may entail but we certainly tried within the limitations of our life experience.

All lovers know that death will bring a separation that will give rise to great pain and grief. While we long and we hope that God, in His mercy, will enable us to be together in eternity, we accept there will likely be a period of separation and widowhood.

This is the reality for all earthly lovers. Despite our love, despite its intensity, physical death is our future reality.

Yet for the great Lover and Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, physical death has been conquered through his death and resurrection. His love is indeed ‘stronger than death’. his passion is truly ‘fiercer than the grave’. Our Lord and Saviour invites us to set him as ‘a seal’ on our hearts and on our arm; to give ourselves in love to him so that we might share in his eternal life.

As we celebrate the Easter mystery, let us remember, that human love, as passionate as it might be, is only a shadow of the love God has for us. And that Love (with a capital L) is indeed stronger than death.

Francine & Byron Pirola are the founders of SmartLoving. For more, visit


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