Tag Archives: love

St Valentine – Pretty Boy or Priest?

14 Feb


Flowers, chocolates, dinner-for-two, expensive cards with hearts on. That is the quintessential Valentines Day, right? Well, maybe not!

St Valentine was not some linen-shirted, tanned, Romeo type heartthrob. He was actually a Roman priest at the time of Emperor Claudius. Claudius decided to ban soldiers from marrying so they wouldn’t be worried about what would happen to their wives and families should they be killed in battle.

Now apparently back then society was kind of relaxed about the whole polygamous marriage idea. This posed a problem for the church who believed marriage was a sacred bond between one man and one woman for their life.

What Valentine stood for was marriage within the church. So he secretly married them, despite Claudius’ law.

Unfortunately for Valentine, he was caught, imprisoned and tortured for performing Christian marriage ceremonies against the command of emperor Claudius.

There are all sorts of stories surrounding Valentine in prison. One of these stories tells how Valentine prayed with the daughter of a man in line to judge him who was named Asterius. Apparently, his daughter was healed from her sickness causing Asterius himself to become a Christian – which was was a very risky step for someone in his position.

In the year 269 AD Valentine was sentenced to be executed which included him being beaten, stoned, and finally decapitated all because of his stand for Christian marriage. The story goes that the last words he wrote were in a note to Asterius’ daughter. He inspired today’s romantics by signing it, “from your Valentine.”

So what’s this got to do with us?

Well, I admire that Valentine stood up for his beliefs and was convicted to act out of his principles. If we stand up for our beliefs, it will cost very few of us our lives, unlike Valentine, but we should not be afraid to stand up for what we believe, or even worse be apathetic.

I think marriage is a good thing and I believe is fundamental to the tapestry of a strong community but in turn, the community needs to support those who are married.

The story also reminds me, as someone who is married, that there are times of hardship in marriage. The excitement of dating and falling in love is not easy to continue into a marriage but there is an opportunity for a more mature and deeply rooted love to blossom over time. I think this is just as beautiful if not more beautiful than the thrill of falling in love.

You see, I reckon God is real. It’s not that I’ve never doubted or am unreflective about it, but I’ve seen signs in creation, my own reason and people that bring me to that conclusion. In Jesus I’ve seen a man driven by love for others, not afraid to go against the status quo and who inspires ordinary people to love, even to the point of it costing people’s lives (and his own).

The English language doesn’t bring out the multiple facets of ‘love’ like other languages do.  The ancient Greeks had almost as many words for love as the Inuit’s have for snow! But for those of us from Anglophone countries we are left with one four letter word to describe our passion for chocolate, our favourite football team and of course that special someone (as if anything could really compare with Spurs!).

But the bible teaches about different aspects of love. Here is one I like:

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:16-18).

I think this is the kind of love St Valentine knew, it cost him dearly, but he put love into action.

Happy Valentine’s Day,