Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. If you haven’t picked up something for that special someone yet there is still time. Just don’t wait to long.
Valentine’s Day (men, that’s February 14), the feast of St. Valentine, was set in 496 by Pope Gelasius I. He wrote that Valentine was one of those “… whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God.” This makes it clear that very little was known about his life at that time. We know very little more today.
There are three St. Valentines that are associated with February 14. The first was a Roman priest, the second the bishop of Interamna (Terni, Italy), and the third was a saint from a Roman province in Africa. The first two were buried along the Via Flaminia outside Rome, and nothing else is known about the third. Because of this, over time there was an effort to fabricate a back story for St. Valentine. These stories of St Valentine share some common threads, (1) he restored sight and or hearing to the daughter of a jailer or a judge, (2) he was executed for refusing to deny Christ or for proselytizing, (3) the order for his execution was given by “Emperor Claudius” in the year 269, and (4) he was beheaded. The Roman Catholic Church’s official list of saints, for February 14 list only one Saint Valentine; a martyr who died February 14, 269 on the Via Flaminia.
St. Valentine is commemorated by Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, and by some Eastern Orthodox Churches. The first three do so on February 14 and the fourth commentate St. Valentine the Presbyter of Rome on July 6 and Hieromartyr Valentine (Bishop of Interamna, Terni in Italy) on July 30.
As Presbyterians, we don’t venerate or commemorate St. Valentine or anyone but Christ. We do however buy flowers and candy for our loved ones. We have more of a Chaucerian view. That is, we see it as an expression of romantic love. This developed from the fictional presentation of “Valentine’s Day” in the fourteenth century, some 700 years ago, as an old tradition by Geoffrey Chaucer’s in his Parlement of Foules. According to Jack Oruch this supposed “old tradition” did not exist before Chaucer. Imagine that, for the longest time, I thought it was an extensive worldwide conspiracy perpetrated by the Floral and Confectioners Lobby and aided by the Greeting Card industry. I wonder how much in royalties they have had to pay Chaucer and his family over the years? Oh no, I think I have gone off on a tangent again.
Let’s hear a little of what the Word has to say about romantic love.
Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised. Song of Solomon 8:6–7 (ESV)
It is always appropriate to show our appreciation for one another. Taking time to deliberately show our affection for one another (in a decent and orderly way) is but an expression of our thankfulness to God.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8 – NIV)
Have a happy Valentines day!