Rev'd Carol Hennessy
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!
This Valentine’s day people will probably have either sent or received a Valentine from someone as it is the day when people show their affection to another by sending cards, flowers, and other messages of love. But have you ever wondered the meaning behind those cards and gifts? There is a true-life story full of love, sacrifice and commitment.
The holiday has origins in the Roman festival of Lupercalia, held in mid-February. The festival, which celebrated the coming of spring, included fertility rites and the pairing off women with men by lottery. At the end of the 5th Century, Pope Gelasius 1 replaced Lupercalia with St. Valentine’s Day. It came to be celebrated as a day of romance from about the 14th century.
Although there were several Christian martyrs named Valentine, the day may have taken its name from a priest who was martyred about 270 by the Emperor Claudius. According to legend, the priest signed a letter ‘from your Valentine’ to his jailer’s daughter, whom he had befriended and, by some accounts, healed from blindness. Other accounts hold that it was St. Valentine of Terni, a bishop, for whom the holiday was named, though it is possible the two saints were actually one person. Another common legend states that St. Valentine defied the emperor’s orders and secretly married couples to spare the husbands from war. It is for this reason that his feast day is associated with love.
Claudius believed that recruitment for the army was down because Roman men did not want to leave their lovers or families behind, so he cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome. Thousands of couples saw their hopes of matrimony dashed by the single act of a tyrant, and no one seemed interested in standing up to the emperor. But a simple Christian priest named Valentine did come forward and stood up for love. He began to secretly marry soldiers before they went off to war, despite the emperor’s orders. In 269 Emperor Claudius found out about the secret ceremonies. He had Valentine thrown into prison and deemed that he would be put to death.
As Valentine was awaiting execution, he fell in love with a blind girl who happened to be the jailer’s daughter. On the eve of his execution, with no writing instruments available, Valentine is said to have written her a sonnet in ink that he squeezed from violets. Legend has it that his words made the blind woman see again. It was a brief romance because the next day Valentine was clubbed to death by Roman executioners.
St. Valentine gave his life so that young couples could be bonded together in holy matrimony. They may have killed the man, but not his spirit. Even centuries after his death, the story of Valentine’s self-sacrificing commitment to love was legendary in Rome. Eventually, he was granted sainthood and they picked February 14 as the day of celebration because of the ancient belief that birds, owls and doves began to mate on that very day.
Formal messages, or valentines, appeared in the 1500, and by the late 1700s commercially printed cards were being used. The first commercial valentines in the United States were printed in the mid-1800s. Valentine commonly depict Cupid, the Roman god of love, along with hearts, traditionally the seat of emotion. Because it was thought that the avian mating season begins in mid-February, birds also became a symbol of the day. Traditional gifts including flowers, particularly red roses, a symbol of beauty and love. While giving a gift and card, having a candlelight dinner, and sharing special words of love are all important, the true spirit of Valentine’s Day needs to last throughout the year.
And so, we pray:
Loving Father, we pray for an open heart and mind so
That we may recognise and be grateful for all the love in our lives
We pray that we might find a new sense of wholeness, joy and peace in your love
So that we may grow in love thought-out our lives
Give us grace to trust in your loving plan for us
So that whatever our circumstances over the course of life
We may know that we are not alone, and we are loved by you, our loving Father, who is full of tenderness, mercy, and compassion.