February 14, 2022 Jason Hefner

What is Valentines Day and Why Celebrate It?

What is Valentines Day and Why Celebrate It?

According to historical sources, there were at least three different Saint Valentines whose martyrdoms are celebrated on the 14th of February. Stories are preserved of two of these Valentines, who lived in the mid-third century, but they are considered more legendary than reliable. And they may have little to do with romance or courtship.

It seems that the association of St. Valentine with the celebration of romance has more to do with the coincidence of the saints’ feast day (Feb. 14th) with previously existing customs of courtship. One source reports that the popular traditions of St. Valentine’s Day must have originated during the Middle Ages in England and France. It was believed that at mid-February the birds began to pair. Herbert Thurston (Catholic Encyclopedia 1907-1913) points to Chaucer’s verse: “For this was sent on Saint Valentine’s day/When every foul cometh there to choose his mate.” He concludes that it was for this reason that the day was given over to lovers and became an occasion for writing love letters and sending other tokens of love.

Although religion and romance are often contrasted, it is healthy for Christians to remember that romance has an important place in our spirituality. The Judeo-Christian scriptures teach that God made humankind male and female and gave them to each other for procreation, love, and happiness (Gen. 2:18-25). Men and women belong together and are the crown of God’s “very good” creation (Gen. 1:31). Moreover, the love, commitment, and passion of marriage is sometimes used as a metaphor for the relationship between God and His people (John 3:28–302 Cor 11:1–3Rev 19:7–921:222:17–20). In other words, the Bible presents romantic love as both a natural relationship between men and women and something that points them toward God.

Recognizing that our contemporary culture has many different views on romantic relationships and marriage, and that Christians of good faith and practice may also disagree on some points, there are profound truths held out to all of us on Valentines Day.

First, we remember that romantic love is God’s gift to humankind and therefore is good and right to celebrate. Even if we do not have a romantic relationship right now, we can still be glad that romance is possibility. Let us shudder to imagine living in a world without romance, or even the possibility of it! On Valentine’s Day we rejoice in the love we have for another and the love that we witness between couples all around us. How beautiful!

Second, when we make and receive gestures which declare our intention to give ourselves completely to another person, we get a glimpse of how God is always making overtures of love toward humanity. God shows up every day with a box of chocolates, a bouquet of roses, a sunrise and sunset, an inward sentiment of affirmation, or an assurance of presence in the midst of difficulty. God has been called the ‘spouse of our soul.’ God is a Valentine to each and every one of us...and to us all together!

So, I invite us all to be loving and beloved this Valentines Day. And I offer you this prayer:

“God, you who are the source, advocate, and goal of all love, you call us into relationships with each other and with yourself. Strengthen and purify our power to love. Let love drive out fear and heal loneliness. Let love fill our hearts and guide our lives, for the sake of Jesus, in whom your love is made visible. Amen.”