February 14th remains a notably date in the world conventionally known as Valentine’s day, St. Valentine’s day or more colloquially Val’s day. On this day most people seek after who would be their “Val” or “lover”. There seem to be so much craze around the world because February is 14th.
This craze had for a long time turned out to be a business opportunity for many to the extent that February 14th just like December 25th had been highly commercialized. Within a period of twenty-four hours most people lose their cool in an effort to ritualize what they cannot grasp it’s attendant reasons and values. Sometimes I sit and ponder if love that I know is seasonal (as some people would say it is the season of love) or February 14th bound.
There is no universally homogenous history of Valentine’s Day. What we have are legends. One connects the Valentine’s Day to a Roman festival called Lupercalia which was a pastoral festival that celebrated the warding off of evil spirits and bringing on of fertility exemplified by the wolf (lupus) that suckled Romulus and Remus the founders of Rome. It was celebrated between 13th and 15th February (ides of February) and at that time young people picked ballots as to who would become their spouses. It is believed by adherents of this legend that Saint Valentine’ Day was used to replace the pagan festival in the same manner that Christmas is said to have replaced the Roman sun god worship on December 25th.
The other legend that is most prevalent revolves around a priest called Valentine who lived in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius II (3rd Century AD). This legend has it that Emperor Claudius II tried to reinforce his military base by making those serving in the military to stop getting into marriage and those married to stop seeing their spouses. For him marriage was distracting his soldiers and making them less effective. With this idea, young soldiers were estranged from their spouses and they were denied the genuine expression of love. Whosoever was found with a woman was either killed or dismissed. It was assumed that this rule made some of the soldiers to start practicing same-sex relationships.
The priest Valentine saw the Emperor’s decree as a total detraction from God’s initial marriage instruction which stipulates that a man leaves his father and mother and be joined to the wife and they become one body (Gen. 2:18). Convinced of the error on the part of the Emperor, Valentine began what could be referred to as positive disobedience by secretly wedding soldiers with their spouses. Soon after the act was laid open and he was arrested and jailed following an instruction from the Emperor. While in jail, he met the daughter of the jailer who found so much consolation in Valentine’s spiritual and moral directions. So she made it a point of duty to visit Valentine often in the jail. One day she came but she could not find Valentine because he had been taken away and was subsequently beheaded. However he left a note for the girl and which simply stated: “from your Valentine”. (May be he hadn’t time to write more).
Beyond the legend and Saint Valentine himself, the celebration is all about love and from my knowledge God is love (1 John 4: 8). If love in the real sense is what is being celebrated today, then God ought to be the centre of the celebration. The best way to celebrate God is to do His will not our own will, nor that of the devil nor that of other people. There is need for humanity to redefine what is being celebrated on this 14th day of February. Are we celebrating love or lust? Are we moved with genuine love and care or by a sudden wave of emotions that will last for twenty-four hours? Are we set to please God on this day or to please the devil? At the end of the celebration can we count ourselves more appreciable to God or lost in lust?
At most the Valentine if it must be celebrated should be a platform for those who are legally and sacramentally married to service their love for each other. It should be a time for married couples to be by themselves to evaluate their love quotient, to guage the progress so far, accept mistakes, ask for forgiveness, make amends and launch into a better love dependent future. If it must be celebrated, it could also be a time for families to reunite and redefine and solidify their love for each other since Saint Valentine from the later story above advocated for the divinely instituted marriage bond which is open for procreation of children.
For those who are yet to marry it provides an opportunity for positive anticipation supported by ardent prayers and not for immoral attitudes and indecent lifestyles. For those who are never married for the sake of the gospel it becomes a time to activate the spirit and character of Saint Valentine by encouraging and supporting couples to wed and live by their marriages vows. For those who are never married for other reasons (or no fault of their own) it becomes a good time to appreciate and look up to the marriage between Christ the bridegroom and the Church his bride with prayerful interest and drawing strength from the love the flows from that union.
This celebration should at this point become for us more of a sober reflection on what actually constitutes love. It should become for us an active introspection on what we understand as love and how we live it out in connection with God. If on this day you can forgive someone who had wronged you, if today you can extend a helping hand to someone in need, if today you can make a visit to the less fortunate and those who lack love then you would have done a great valuable Valentine’s Day. Do not celebrate a VALUELESS VALENTINE!
May God’s love be your guiding light today and always! Happy Valentine’s Day!