Mention the words “Valentine’s Day,” and we conjure up images of love and romance — maybe Cupid (Eros), the Greek god of love, or a heart, long linked to strong emotions, like love. But why the name, and why February 14? Legends give us some interesting theories. The Roman St. Valentine, for whom the day is reportedly named, was put to death possibly on February 14, c. AD 270, allegedly for helping Christians escape harsh Roman prisons. The added love story is that the imprisoned Valentine sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with his jailor’s young daughter, whom he had befriended and healed from blindness. Before his death, he supposedly wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression still used today. Because of his sympathetic, heroic, and romantic reputation, Valentine had become one of the most popular saints in England and France by the Middle Ages. Valentine’s Day is now celebrated in France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Mexico, and the U.S.
Another story claims the Christian church may have chosen mid-February for St. Valentine’s feast day to “Christianize” Lupercalia, a Roman fertility festival celebrated on February 15. In the Middle Ages, the day became definitively associated with love. The French and English believed that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, suggesting Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.
We use the word love usually to indicate affection or deep feelings. Add a bit of excitement and mystery, and you have romance! I know Jarrell loves me; he kisses me morning and night, no matter how old, disheveled, or cranky I am. Romance? He’s surprised me with: a harp-shaped cake he made himself; his own poetry; jewelry; what’s become my favorite sweatshirt (and he’s colorblind); and adventures in foreign countries. What first attracted me to my husband was his voice. Even now, hearing his voice still warms my heart.
Wes Howl’s joyful, waltz-tempo rendering of “Love Lifted Me” during a recent Vespers reminded me that God’s love for us underscores the love we have for each other. Love has been part of God’s world since Adam. God knew Adam needed a woman; adding Eve set the stage for couples from Day 8 (or so). The Bible tells of many successful marriages, and one can find plenty of romance, especially in Solomon’s Song of Songs. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 gives us a great recipe for a good marriage: “Love is patient, love is kind…” Philippians 2:3 adds to it. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” Ephesians 4:2 tells us to “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” I’m still trying.