Friday, February 12, 2010

St Valentine's Day

Early 20th century Valentine's Day card, showi...

Image via Wikipedia

There is coming up a holiday in which we celebrate love.  There are many theories as to the origin of this holiday.  One theory is the Roman religion celebrating Lupercalia (Celebrated February 13-15), which was Christianized by announcing the celebration of the martyrdom of St Valentine of Rome.  Legends are recorded within the Christian faith with the earliest documented mention of the story appearing around 1260 in Golden Legend and again in 1493 in the Nuremberg Chronicle.  There also have been a discovery of a Roman Catacomb and a church in early Christian Rome dedicated to a person named Valentine. 

The Legend of St Valentine is that he was Priest in Rome at the time of Emperor Claudius II.  At the time men were reluctant to go to war if they were married or engaged to be married.  This period of the Roman Empire was tumultuous (though somewhat less bloody relative to other Roman emperors) and this required that young men serve as Roman soldiers.  According to this legend Claudius suspended marriage so that men would not have attachments preventing them from going to battle.  There also were laws that made Christians illegal citizens of the Roman empire because they would not worship "Caesar is Lord." 

Valentine continued to perform marriages in violation of this law.  He was arrested and put into prison.  He continued to preach the Gospel and win others to the Lord according to this tradition.  Claudius was intrigued by Valentine because his witness in the face of adversity.  He called Valentine and told him if he renounced his faith and worshiped Roman God's that he would spare his life.  Valentine refused.  Instead he attempted to persuade Claudius to convert to Christianity.  This displeased Claudius greatly and Claudius sentenced Valentine to death by beating, stoning, and beheading.

According to this legend while in jail Valentine befriended the Jailer who had a blind daughter.  He called upon God to heal the Jailer's daughter of her blindness and she was healed.  The jailer and his family were converted to Christian faith.  Prior to his execution Valentine wrote a note to the Jailer's daughter encouraging her to stay strong in the faith.  He singed it "From your Valentine."  His execution is said to have occurred on February 14, 270AD. 

The difficulty with Legend that is recorded nearly 1000 years after an event is that it is being able to separate embellishment from that which factual.  However I believe the story can remind us of love and devotion.  Valentine defended the sacred rite of marriage as an institution of God when the state tried to suspend it.  He also uplifted the value of commitment, faith, devotion and integrity when denying these things would have spared his life.  Finally he died with a deep concern for the wellbeing of others that God had placed in his life. 

Perhaps we to can live with a self-sacrificing love that is demonstrated by this story.  I plan on reposting a couple of previous posts on the subject of love over then next couple of days.  I hope that your Valentine's day offers an opportunity to renew romantic love (if you are married) and devoted love for those that are important in your life, and most importantly the divinely inspired love that is demonstrated in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

God Bless You.

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