The other day I received a Valentine Card for the very first time in my life, the only problem it was from my 78 year old housekeeper, Alice. I suspect she couldn’t find any other card and thought that would do just as well. I was thankful for it all the same.
Most of you with a significant other will be expecting a similar card expressing their undying love for you. It happens of course not by chance on the feast of St Valentine, a day closely associated with such expressions. The origins of St Valentine are to say the least obscure. There were 2 Valentines who were martyred round the same time at Rome and Terni, 60 miles from Rome, one a soldier and the other a bishop. The Church doesn’t specify which Valentine it is that we are celebrating. Their death took place in 3rd century and just outside Rome a significant size church was built and was adorned over the centuries. In excavations of the church devotion to Valentine was testified by inscriptions that have been found.
You might be surprised that our connections with Valentine are just as obscure. On St Valentine’s day in the middle ages people are said to have established a tradition of sending love letters to one another on that day….hence our tradition of cards.
I always have that nice image in my head of St Valentine (whichever one it might be) in heaven amongst all those other saints. These saints (Valentines) whom people know very little about, on their day they make people love each other. Perhaps they are saying mission accomplished after all these years. Is this not what it is supposed to be about? Maybe they will get admiring looking's and knowing nods from the other saints.
One of the most famous love stories is that of Romeo and Juliet written by William Shakespeare. As a story it has everything: 2 warring families, humour anger, pride, jealousy, deceit, tenderness and of course a sad ending. It concerns 2 star crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, from families divided by rancour who fall in love. What follows is they are caught up in violence and death and in desperate bid to be together. Eventually they both die before their hopes and wishes are realised.
The ending is heart breaking. The writing has gone down in history as among some of the best language ever written in English about love.
Their love is tender, they are drawn together despite all the difficulties. Anyone who has ever been in love will recognise themselves in that story. That look, that longing, that desire sums up something deep within us.
We are creatures created for love. We are designed in God’s image and likeness and that ability to love and that desire to love is placed in each of us as a divine spark! As St Valentine’s day says we are all Romeo and Juliet, the man and woman who are created to love..
We are also creatures in which a shadow can pass over us because of the fall. Capable of acts that are not love. The story of Romeo and Juliet shows how love can turn to anger violence, pride. We are not the quite true deal as we should be.
But in the Gospel Jesus proves he is the real deal, no temptation, no darkness, no temptation overcomes his mission to redeem the world by love. The devil and all he has to offer doesn’t deflect him from his purpose.
In the end it is about love. Its all about love, how to learn to love. Christ is our teacher and we are all his earnest pupils. Above all Lent is about returning to the basics to learn to love.
If St Valentine’s day reminds us of one thing it reminds us to love.