Commemoration of Saint Valentine, Martyr
The Lord be with you
February 14 is, of course, Valentine’s Day. The greeting card companies and florists love it. So much so that some mistakenly think that they created the day. Actually, the origins of the day reach back to the third century, long before the florists and greeting card companies were around.
The name Valentine means “worthy,” and so it is not surprising that there has been more than one individual with the name. Indeed, several them have figured prominently in Church history. The man this day is associated with lived in the Third Century. While his story might be embellished, the main story reveals a man devoted to his Lord Jesus.
Valentine was a physician and priest living in Rome during the rule of Emperor Claudius II. At this time, it was still illegal to be a Christian or help them. Claudius wanted to restore the glory of Rome. He felt restoring the army was vital in this effort. However, he didn’t want to draft anyone, so he was going to have an all-volunteer army. In this effort, he discovered that unmarried men were more likely to join than married men. So, believe it or not, he outlawed marriages. That is to say, if you were already married, that was okay. However, if you were not married, you couldn’t get married. Many young couples were understandably upset.
As already said, Valentine was a Christian priest. He married people, even though it was against the law. (This is the romantic connection with Valentine we celebrate today.) When Claudius found out, Valentine was arrested. He was caught while marring a Christian couple. Claudius took a liking to this prisoner – until Valentine made a strategic error: he tried to convert the emperor – whereupon he was condemned to death. He was beaten with clubs and stoned; when that didn’t get him to reject Jesus, he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate. The year was 270 ad. Rather quickly he was remembered by the Early Church with a day commemorating the day of his martyrdom (which was February 14).
Tradition suggests that, on the day of his execution, Valentine left a note of encouragement for a child of his jailer written on an irregularly shaped piece of paper. Some say the paper was shaped like a heart. He signed it “From your Valentine.” This greeting became a pattern for millions of written expressions of love and caring that now are the highlight of Valentine’s Day in many nations. Another tradition also claims that Valentine restored the sight of that same child.
Valentine’s love flowed from his faith in Christ. His actions in marrying people flowed from his faith in Christ. His willingness to die was a willingness born from his faith in Christ. Perhaps the best way we can honor the memory of Valentine is for the love of Christ to flow through us as well.
Prayer: Almighty and everlasting God, You kindled the flame of Your love in the heart of Your holy martyr Valentine. Grant to us, Your humble servants, a like faith and the power of love, that we who rejoice in Christ’s triumph may embody His love in our lives; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Blessings in Christ,