It is almost that time of year again; that special day of celebrating love and lovers.
Most people either adore this day or hate this day; depending on their circumstances at the moment.
Out come the Hallmark cards, all decorated in red and pink.
Out come the chocolates and the candy hearts and roses. (Actually; they came out in the stores right after Christmas!)
For one day these things seem to cover the land and occupy our thoughts.
It seems to be a special day for the whole world to say “I love you” to their sweethearts!
WHERE DID ALL OF THIS CELEBRATION COME FROM?
The world has taken this day to a whole new level; probably much more than originally intended when the day first originated.
How on earth did all of this ever get started anyway?
HAVE YOU HEARD THE STORY OF ST. VALENTINE?
Like most noble days, the day we now call Valentine’s Day was started with the brave actions of one faithful man. His real name was Valentinus, and he later became known as St. Valentine.
St. Valentine was a real Roman Catholic priest who actually lived during the time of the third century. At that time there was a ruler named Claudias who was persecuting the church. He had ordered the people to give their worship to twelve pagan gods, and anyone who associated with Christians or Christianity was severely persecuted.
Claudias also thought that unmarried soldiers fought better than married soldiers because the married ones might be afraid of what would happen to their wives and children if they were killed in battle. So he issued an edict that young couples were not to marry. Reader beware! This is what happens when we let rulers make edicts!
Can you imagine that?
Have you seen the movie Braveheart? It seems that William Wallace fell victim to such a ruler; who killed his beautiful wife and caused Sir William to defend the freedom of Scotland. They don’t mention St. Valentine in this movie; but the same things seem to have been going on in many different cultures. In Braveheart the pagan, evil rulers in charge would claim the virgin bodies of young brides on the first night of the day of their weddings. This caused William Wallace and his lover to marry in secret and hide their relationship from the officials.
MORE OF THE STORY OF ST. VALENTINE
Anyway…….getting back to the story of St. Valentine:
His lifetime was taking place in a time of great evil and lawlessness and most couples simply wound up living together unmarried without giving a thought to whether it was right or wrong before the true God of heaven and earth. This history is sounding a little too familiar. Why does the current culture come to mind when I think of such barbaric times?
Of course the faithful church was at work and intent on keeping the will of God. Let’s hope that will eventually turn out to be the case in modern times too.
Naturally, the true church was against people who were not married living together based on the fact that this act would break the commandments of God; so they had to come up with a solution for their congregations who were trying to live faithful lives amidst a very evil and pagan world.
THE TIME OF SECRET MARRIAGES
As an answer to this problem, they performed secret marriages.
The man who championed this cause was named Valentine.
St. Valentine began secretly marrying people of the church who were truly committed to following the ways of Christ. (Again I am reminded of the movie Braveheart and the scene where the priest meets them in the middle of the night in the deepest part of the forest and marries them in secret.)
These secret marriages became Valentine’s main mission in life. He also participated in rescuing those who were put into prison for marrying. He would organize creative and successful ways for them to escape.
CAUGHT RED-HANDED DOING GOOD DEEDS
Valentine was eventually caught and thrown into prison for marrying people against the edict of Emperor Claudias II. It is said that he was terribly tortured in prison. There are legends about his faithful actions and the ways he cared for others even while suffering himself in prison.
A man named Asterius was one of the judges who sentenced Valentine to prison. He had a daughter named Julia who was blind.
While Valentine was in prison Asterius brought Julia to be schooled by Valentine, who was also known as a great scholar and teacher.
Valentine taught Julia history, math and science. Though blind, she was brilliant and learned quickly.
Valentine also taught Julia about God.
She trusted in his wisdom and followed his guidance.
One day she asked Valentine if God would really answer prayers. He assured her that God would. She confided in Valentine that she was praying for God to make her see so that she could see with her eyes all the wonderful things that he had taught her. Valentine told her that God always did what was best for us and that He always listened to the prayers of a believer.
A MIRACLE OF GOD HAPPENED
After that conversation, Valentine prayed with Julia right there in his prison cell and in a matter of minutes she screamed out that she saw a brilliant light!
She was healed of her blindness!
Valentine was destined to be martyred the next day.
Valentine died on February 14th in the year 269 a.d.
He died a horrible martyr’s death.
Because of his stance on Christian marriage he was sentenced first to beating with a club, then stoning and eventual decapitation.
THE LAST WORDS OF A NOBLE PRIEST
It is said that his last words were written down in a note that was sent to Asterius’s daughter Julia telling her to stay strong in her faith in God. He signed the note with the words “from your Valentine.”
It is from the action of his written note, and how he signed it, that we get the practice of sending Valentine cards today.
The color red signifies his martyr’s blood and the hearts stand for his true heart.
It is said that Julia later found St. Valentine’s grave and planted an almond tree with pink blossoms on it over the grave site. That is how the tradition of giving flowers began.
ONE MAN DIED BUT ANOTHER SOUL WAS SAVED
Because of the miracle that happened to Julia, her father, Asterius, later became a Christian too.
St. Valentine did not die in vain, many came to Christ because of his martyrdom.
THIS BEGINNING WAS NOT PAGAN; BUT GODLY
So you see the real original St. Valentine was a Christian martyr.
He laid his life down for what he believed and he died for taking a stand for his faith. Later he became known as the patron saint for lovers. It is a good and fitting legacy.
Many couples seeking advice for having a strong marriage are advised to study the life of St. Valentine.
Upon hearing his story they learn that sometimes you have to suffer for true love, but the truly committed keep their vows to the end, even unto death, because that is what true love is all about.
St. Valentine demonstrated this to us with his whole life.
This is a holiday declared by the facts of the history of mankind. It is a true and lovely story that displays the love of Christ; very similar in nature to the miracles of Purim and Hanukkah which we also chose to celebrate.
Just be careful not to get your information from Hallmark; and remember the loyalty and good deeds of St. Valentine. It is truly a teaching moment to explain to young children the right and wrong ways to live and the importance of keeping godly leaders in our government.
Since St. Valentine was a Roman Catholic priest; it seems to be the Catholic Church that celebrates this day in full force. This year the day falls on another day that they and a few other denominations observe called Ash Wednesday. It will be interesting to see how these two days mix in the eyes of the faithful. We will be publishing our thoughts on the observance of Lent and whether or not Christians should participate soon.
In the meantime – Happy Valentine’s Day!