It seems there are numerous martyrdom stories associated with not just one but various Valentines connected to February 14, including a written account of Saint Valentine of Rome’s imprisonment for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire, which is probably the best.
According to legend, Saint Valentine restored sight to the blind daughter of his judge,[and he wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine”as a farewell before his execution. A wonderful and courageous thing to do, but hardly a love story.
The Feast of Saint Valentine was established by Pope Gelasius I in AD 496 to be celebrated on February 14 in honour of Valentine of Rome, who died on that date in AD 269.and became a martyred saint. So now we have a martyr and a feast, but what’s love got to do with it?
So February 14th first became associated with romantic love within the circle of celebrated writer Geoffrey Chaucer (have you read Canterbury Tales?) in the 14th century, when the tradition of courtly love flourished. In 18th-century England, it grew into an occasion in which couples expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards, surprisingly known as “valentines”.
Valentine’s Day symbols that are used today include the heart-shaped outline, doves, and the figure of the winged Cupid, who is a little wicked angel who shoots arrows into people’s hearts to make them fall in love! Since the 19th century, handwritten valentines have given way to mass-produced greeting cards.
All of which now form part of the ritual of Valentine’s Day. But one thing I hadn’t heard of was about Saint Valentine’s Keys which apparently are given to lovers «as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver›s heart», But strangely also given to children to ward off epilepsy, called Saint Valentine’s Malady in some countries but quite what the connection is I am not sure! Though I suppose there are moments….
Lets move on to the definition of love!
Of course more has been written about love than any other subject ever. more than war or peace, more than politics or history, more than culture or even religion. The words to 90pct of all pop songs are about “love” in one form or another, the endless screeds of poetry about love, there are plays and films and books which try to explain what it is, what it does to you and finally–how hard it is to define!
But it it is to religion that I turn to for the best definition that I know. It is not just about romantic love, but “real” love and in reading and understanding these words of St Paul in his letter to the Corinthians 2000 years ago that we can begin to understand the mystery and majesty of this thing called love. Here is the quote:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”
You don’t need to be Christian to understand and appreciate these words and how they apply to everything we do at home, at work and yes, in our personal lives. Some of them are especially important for couples: love is not self seeking ie. look out for your partner’s interests as well as your own: love is not easily angered ie. breathe deeply before answering! Love keeps no record of wrongs ie. forgive and forget–and never bring it up again. This is the NUMBER ONE cause of break ups: the wounds that fester because we can’t leave them alone.
So as you set about to woo your loved one on St V’s Day remember it’s not what you say or do now to make her/him fall for you, it’s what you will say and do and feel for the next 30 years if you are successful! But if you are really in love –it’s true, believe it-True Love Never Fails.