A holiday that is fraught with meaning and loaded with expectations. Some of us celebrate and some of us dread. Because I am all about learning and then can’t help but share what I’ve learned, I am using my Telling Tuesday to share about the origins of Valentine’s Day. Some of you are up on your history but please bear with me, I have a call to action for all of us at the end.
Who was St. Valentine? There really was a person, a priest in Rome (around 250 A.D.) who is said to have defied Emperor Claudius by secretly marrying young couples in spite of the emperor’s mandate making marriage illegal for young men before they served as soldiers. Valentine knew that was a bad idea. (On a side note, priests were not required to be celibate at this point in history.) According to what is written about him, Valentine was martyred for his defiance of the emperor. There is an additional piece of information that connects him to the current practices of the day; while he was imprisoned before his execution, he is said to have written a note to a young woman whom he loved and signed it “from your Valentine”. Isn’t that sweet? He was an advocate for marriage and a romantic! You can read more about how we got from that point in history to our present day celebrations here.
But what about you and me today? How can the story of Valentine impact our lives today? We need to delve a little deeper into what Valentine would have believed about LOVE to really understand his actions. As a priest in the early Church he would have made a confession of faith, and had access to monastic copies of what we call the New Testament translated from the original Greek into Latin. He would have known what the Apostle Paul said of LOVE in his first letter to the church at Corinth: “Love is patient; Love is kind and is not jealous; Love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” Frances Chan encouraged his congregation to read those words substituting God for the word Love. When I first heard that read aloud in that way, those words struck me in a new way. I recognized that God IS Love. I can’t live out these words in my own strength by trying harder or doing more. If you believe God and have accepted His gift of Redeeming Love through His Son Jesus then YOU are filled with Love! So, regardless of whether we are married, dating, or longing, we can be about the work of showing LOVE to the world by the person we are and the things we do. How will you show LOVE to others today?