Nan and I had our first date on Valentine’s Day 1976. I invited her to a Youth Valentine’s Banquet held at the Red Springs Baptist Church. I’m nothing if not a big spender! On top of that, I was the featured speaker, so our meal was free. And the rest, as they say, is history. Nan has had to sit and listen to me gab for 35 years! To this day we always celebrate our love on (or around) Valentine’s Day by doing something really special.
Historians are not exactly sure what to make of St. Valentine. The day’s commemoration may refer to as many as three Valentines. The first was a Roman priest martyred on the Flaminian Way under Roman Emperor Claudius (3rd century). The second was a bishop of Terni, born around 175 AD, who was taken to Rome and martyred. The third Valentine was a martyr in the Roman province of Africa, but little else is known about him.
A few years back Nan and I were visiting Dublin, Ireland and ran across a Carmelite Church with a unique distinction. It supposedly contains the tomb of St. Valentine. Evidently the remains of Valentine were given to the Dublin church by Pope Gregory XVI in 1835.
If the legend is accurate and St. Valentine was a martyr, then it gives significance to the color red being the predominant color of Valentine’s Day. In the New Testament, the word “witness” most often translates the Greek word from which we get our word “martyr.” A witness is one who speaks of what he/she has seen and heard, even at the cost of their life.
Again, if the story of Valentine is true, then he demonstrated the utmost love for Christ and for others when he laid down his life as a witness. It was an early Christian custom to commemorate a martyr’s death on the anniversary of their martyrdom. On one such occasion the following prayer was written:
Most Gracious Heavenly Father, You gave Saint Valentine the courage to witness to the gospel of Christ, even to the point of giving his life for it. Help us to endure all suffering for love of you, and to seek you with all our hearts; for you alone are the source of life and love. Grant that we may have the courage and love to be strong witnesses of your truth to our friends and family and to the whole world. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
As we think about the task of sharing Jesus Christ with others this is the kind of heart it will take to make a difference in our world.