Ah, the romance, the commercialism of February 14th! The second part of that seems to creep into every holiday or special occasion we have on our calendar; but, I guess that should be expected living in a capitalistic society. But romance and commercialism are far from what is behind the establishment of this religious holiday.
That’s right-- Valentine’s Day (or originally titled Saint Valentine’s Day) was a day set aside by the Vatican. Pope Gelasius I established the date for the Feast of Saint Valentine in AD 496. To me a feast would mean an abundance of wonderful food being available, though that wasn’t its meaning in this case. It was, however, a significant event to be celebrated. Gelasius I established this date to celebrate not one, but two Christian martyrs.
There were two different individuals named Valentine. Both of these men were martyred in the third century. Valentine of Terni in AD 273, four years after Valentine of Rome in AD 269. Two different martyrs just four years apart who had nothing to do with the romantic love we associate with the day that carries their name. The romantic aspect of this holiday didn’t come around until over a millennium later in the fourteenth century. And that romance it seems was associated with the spring practice of attracting a mate. . .in birds. St. Valentine’s Day sure has evolved a long way from a day to honor two individuals who were killed for their faith.
Evolution happens a lot in our society. It is amazing to me how Halloween evolved from a day for kids to parade around the neighborhood getting way too much candy to a day that seems to be as much about drinking as eating candy. Labor Day has evolved from a day to celebrate the establishment of an eight hour work day to the last day off before we settle into our fall schedule. This evolution has taken place not only on our calendar but also in our phones, our television viewing, and our cars that can drive themselves. Yes, our society on many levels, has evolved and is continuing to evolve.
Every now and then it’s good to step back and look at the origins. No, I’m not saying we need to honor these two men named Valentine, but maybe think about what was noteworthy about their lives. They stood up for what they believed and it cost them their lives. As our Christianity has evolved with our society, the idea of dying for Christ seems unheard of in our corner of the world. We spend more time fighting for our rights as citizens of this country than we do working to help others become citizens of eternity. We seem to think more about what we can collect on this earth than the treasures we are to store up in Heaven. We talk more about the problems we see in others rather than share the love of God and His word with them. Maybe we need to step back this Valentine’s Day not to the origins of the holiday, but of the love that can be found in I John 4:19--We love because He first loved us.