Happy Valentine’s Day! First attributed as a romantic holiday by the Medieval English poet Geoffrey Chaucer, Valentine’s Day has become big business in the USA. It ranks first in chocolate candy sales and floral arrangements, and second in the sale of greeting cards. Today, approximately 25% of all cards sent each year, are Valentine’s Day cards with teachers receiving the most, followed by children, mothers, wives, and finally sweethearts. Children ages 6 to 10 will exchange more than 650 million cards with teachers, classmates, and family members. Annual spending on this day is more than $20 Billion with a staggering 196 million roses produced for this single day.
Like many of our celebrations, the origins are often murky and this holiday is no different. However, what we can glean from the pages of history is a fascinating and moving story of faith and commitment whose echoes should impact our lives beyond candy and flowers.
The Latin name, “Valentinus” was quite common in Europe during the 2nd to 8th Centuries AD. This is because the moniker means: worthy, strong, and powerful; and these are virtues that parents wanted to see fostered in their children. For exhibiting these virtues in the face of horrific opposition, the Catholic Church would beatify a Roman Priest named, Valentinus.
It was for dubious military reasons that the Roman Emperor Claudius II issued an edict that young men could not be married. In a pagan culture that subjugated women and celebrated polygamy, the sacredness of a Christian Marriage: it’s elevation of the status of women, and the solemnity of the presence of the Spirit of Christ Himself represented by the priest, was not only unique but required great courage to celebrate.
Further, it went against the stampede of a culture and the whims of a tyrant. In this political and cultural setting, Saint Valentine would secretly perform the vows of marriage for these young Christian couples, in spite of the Emperor’s decree. Eventually, the Roman authorities arrested the priest and on February 14, 270 AD, Valentinus (worthy, strong, and powerful)…Saint Valentine…was martyred for the actions of his faith.
The obligations that love brings are far more than greeting cards, flowers, and candy. Beginning with Christ, the value of love is inexpressible, but its cost is immeasurable.
Romans 13:8 VOICE – Don’t owe anyone anything, with the exception of love to one another—that is a debt which never ends—because the person who loves others has fulfilled the law.
Dr. Tobey Montgomery