The Secret Origin of Valentine’s Day

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Today, in honor of St. Valentine’s Day (February 14), we’ll preempt our regularly scheduled series for a closeup look at this special occasion.

St. Valentine’s Day or the Feast of Saint Valentine, as it’s known in the Anglican Church, honors by name a 3rd-Century Christian who was martyred for his faith. (There’s at least one other Saint Valentine, perhaps even two, also variously remembered every February 14, but we’ve chosen to tell the traditional story of the aforementioned martyr, Valentinus.)

The Roman emperor Claudius II passed a law forbidding Christian worship. Breaking this law was punishable by death, but Valentinus refused to stop following and practicing the teachings of Jesus Christ. So he was arrested and given a death sentence. While imprisoned and awaiting for his sentence to be carried out, Valentinus found favor with his jailer. Realizing that Valentinus was a man of learning, the jailer asked the Christian if he would tutor his daughter, Julia, who had been blind since birth. Valentinus quickly agreed and soon discovered his pretty young pupil had a sharp mind. He read her stories, taught her arithmetic, and told her about his God.

Julia was able to see the world through the eyes of Valentinus. She trusted in his wisdom and found comfort for her blindness in the man’s quiet strength. One day she asked Valentinus, “Does God really hear our prayers?”

“Yes, my child,” replied Valentinus, “He hears each one.”

Julia then explained how she prayed for sight every morning, asking Valentinus if he believed God would answer her prayers. He replied, “God does what is best for us if we only believe in Him.”

That day, Julia knelt and grasped her tutor’s hands. Together they prayed, and Julia accepted Christ as her Lord and Savior. Legend teaches that at that moment a brilliant light flooded the tiny prison cell, and Julia received her sight! A happy ending? For Julia, yes; but the story’s ultimate ending is bittersweet. Late one evening, Saint Valentinus wrote Julia a letter, urging her to stay close to God. He signed it “from Your Valentine.” The next morning, on February 14, 270 A.D., he was taken from prison to his place of execution, a spot now called Porta Valentini in his honor. He was buried at what is today the Church of Praxedes in Rome.

According to legend, Julia often visited his grave, and nearby she planted a pink-blossomed almond tree. Today, the almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love and friendship! And the Feast of Saint Valentine commemorates this kind of unselfish love.

Valentine’s Day is not just for married couples or people who are dating. In fact, the holiday didn’t become associated with romantic love until the High Middle Ages (around the 12th Century) when the bawdy storyteller Geoffrey Chaucer popularized the notion. So, feel free to spread some good cheer among your friends and coworkers. Yes, even if you’re not particularly crazy about a few of them. Don’t have coworkers? Then hug your pooch! Don’t have a pooch? Then hug your neighbor’s pooch. Your neighbor doesn’t have a pooch? Then hug your neighbor. No, wait! That might not be the best advice!

Guys, remember that nothing says “I care” quite like flowers. There’s still time to grab some from the nearest market. And if you don’t have enough coin for roses, you can usually find a small, mixed flower “Fun Bunch” at most grocers. Ahem, cards are nice, too.

Ladies, after you finish agreeing with us, please remind yourselves that gift giving is not gender specific. Some ideas: prepare a special meal or dessert; or pick up a little token that let’s him know you appreciate him — like a new pair of socks. (You know, something he can drop on the floor when he pulls them off.)

Make it a point to do something nice for the people you care about and/or appreciate. Help bring a smile to their faces. Make someone happy!

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”   (Maya Angelou, American author, poet, singer and actress, 1928-2014)

Please consider this post as our Valentine to you. We’ve had the pleasure of knowing and chatting with a few of our readers, but the rest of you…. No, you’re not strangers!

“There are no strangers here; Only friends (we) haven’t yet met.” (William Butler Yeats, Irish Poet, 1865-1939)  Happy Valentine’s Day, dear friends!

“…God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NASB)

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