February brings a hopeful ending to winter. Many also celebrate Valentine’s Day. Candy, flowers, dinner and Cupid are all part of this “holiday”. What was the origin of this day we celebrate annually on February 14th? Here is a brief description of who St. Valentine was.
A common hagiography describes Saint Valentine as “a priest of Rome or as the former Bishop of Terni, Narnia and Amelia, a town of Umbria, in central Italy.” While under the house arrest of Judge Asterius, and discussing his faith with him, Valentinus (the Latin version of his name) was discussing the validity of Jesus. The judge put Valentinus to the test and brought to him the judge’s adopted blind daughter. If Valentinus succeeded in restoring the girl’s sight, Asterius would do whatever he asked. Valentinus laid his hands on her eyes and the child’s vision was restored. Immediately humbled, the judge asked Valentinus what he should do. Valentinus replied that all of the idols around the judge’s house should be broken, and that the judge should fast for three days and then undergo baptism. The judge obeyed and, as a result, freed all the Christian inmates under his authority. The judge, his family, and his forty-four member household (family members and servants) were baptized. Valentinus was later arrested again for continuing to proselytize and was sent to the prefect of Rome, to the emperor Claudius Gothicus (Claudius II) himself. “Claudius took a liking to him until Valentinus tried to convince Claudius to embrace Christianity, whereupon Claudius refused and condemned Valentinus to death, commanding that Valentinus either renounce his faith or he would be beaten with clubs, and beheaded. Valentinus refused and Claudius’ command was executed outside the Flaminian Gate February 14, 269.” (www.wikipedia.com).
Valentine was actually a martyr for the cause of Christ! As with many other holidays, the legacy of St. Valentine has been hijacked! This time by Cupid and a box of chocolates. I often wonder how St. Nicholas (the real man, not Santa Claus) would feel if he knew that Christmas was about him to many children and families and not the Jesus he lived for? Would St. Patrick be offended that his missionary work in Ireland that he poured his life out for is now replaced by drunkenness?
Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Leprechauns, Cupid and all the other characters that seem to replace deep and rich origins reveal the much deeper problem that we really do not know what love is. Love was despised and rejected; love was bruised for our transgressions (Isaiah 53), and love willingly laid His life down for us (John 10). Love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Love should lead us to the cross where the blood of Christ was poured out.
This Valentine’s Day reflect on and remember that “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain; He washed me white as snow.” (Jesus Paid it All – hymn) “That we may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passed knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19) We are praying for your families.