The Story of St. Valentine’s Day

Published by Jacob P Varghese on

Who was St. Valentine? What did he do that gave him sainthood?

Many traditional legends are linked to Valentine. One such goes as follows. Under the rule of Emperor Claudius II Rome was involved in many bloody and unpopular military campaigns. Claudius the Cruel, as he was known at the time, was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. He believed that the reason was that Roman men did not want to leave their loved ones or families. As a result, Claudius cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome. This was when a Christian priest named Valentine disagreed with this verdict came to defend love in the empire. Valentine began to secretly marry couples despite the emperor’s orders.

When Emperor Claudius was informed of these ceremonies, Valentine was sent to prison where he remained until his death on February 14 in the year 270. Valentine was clubbed, stoned, and then beheaded. History claims that while Valentine was in prison awaiting execution, he fell in love with the blind daughter of the jailer, Asterius. Through his unswerving faith, he miraculously restored her sight. He signed a farewell message to her “Love from Your Valentine”, a phrase that still lives today. It wasn’t until a few hundred years later when Valentine’s Day began to develop, as we know it. At the time Christianity was beginning to take control of Europe.

Another tradition says that Valentine was a young man, although not a Christian, he helped Christians during a time of persecution. Valentine was imprisoned for refusing to worship pagan gods. He was forced to renounce his faith but he refused to do so. He was caught and put in jail, became a believer there and was clubbed to death for this.

In the old days, there was a pagan love festival, called Lupercalia on February 15. As part of the effort of the Church, to do away with pagan holidays, in 496 A.D. Pope Gelasius changed Lupercalia from the 15th to the 14th to try and stop the pagan celebration. In 496 Pope Gelasius I named February 14 as Valentine’s Day. Valentine was made a saint and Lupercalia renamed in his honor. The Church realized that there was nothing wrong with celebrating love, only the pagan’s superstitious elements that were insulting to God. Lupercalia was done away with, but it had left its mark on Saint Valentine’s Day.

Until today the tradition of honoring Valentine continues. Today, Valentine’s Day is a day for celebrating all kinds of loving relationship between people. But love is not that which needs an extra special day to express. It certainly should not be our only day to show love in the whole year, but Christ taught that we love each other through out our lives.

Love in the 21st century is a colossal concept that means different things to different people. The modern world has adopted a notion of love that is contrary to the love taught and modeled by Jesus Christ and true Christian charity. Let me humbly attempt to contrast biblical love and modern love in terms of contemporary love relationships and in the context of marriage.

Modern love is based on experience. This usually happens when someone experiences the right “chemistry” with a person that has caught his or her attention. This leads to love being defined by feelings. “I love you” means one feels a certain warmth or affection for another person “I love you, man!” syndrome and his affinity. This type of love cannot be controlled. Seeing and feeling is believing. I must be attracted enough in order to elicit a love response. Modern love is self-affirming, and the feeling must be mutual. Modern love is carnal and perverted. If a relationship is not rewarding, then one has the right to dissolve the relationship, à la no-fault divorce, and find love elsewhere.

Biblical love is based on a decision. A covenant for life! This is called “until death do we part.” You decide to invest in another by giving yourself to meet their needs. A biblical “I love you” is affection coupled with a commitment to serve even when feelings temporarily disappear from time to time. Can any married person relate? In other words, Christian love is dependent on God, personal choice, and commitment. Likewise Christian charity is sacrificial. Christian love is concerned with doing what is good and right in the sight of God. Christian love is moral!

True love is established in Jesus Christ-“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” The virtue of love is really about sacrifice and service. It’s time we Christians modeled that love to a culture that possesses a perverted view of love. True Christianity models the love of Christ. If Christ is exalted, then men and women will be drawn. Christ is exalted in our lives when we love the Lord our God with our whole being and love our neighbor as ourselves.


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