Valentine’s Day is here again. Every year on 14 February people celebrate this day by sending messages of love and affection to their loved ones, friends and family.
In my younger years I gave the excuse for not giving chocolates or candies, by sending cards with these lines: “Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and that is bad for you!”
Back then I was not aware of the origin of Valentine’s Day or St. Valentine’s Day.
As I look into the historical origin of this celebration, I realize that it is anything but romantic. They were bloodied accounts of martyrdom.
There were three different martyrs named Valentine.
The first was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine felt the injustice of such decree. He defied the Emperor by secretly performing marriages for the soldiers. According to legend, Valentine is said to have cut hearts from parchment, and gave them to these soldiers “to remind these men of their vows and God’s love.” This could well explain the widespread use of hearts on Valentine’s Day.
When his actions were discovered, the emperor ordered that he be put to death. Valentine lost his life but gained the reputation for believing in the importance of love.
The second was a bishop of Terni. Back then Christianity was still outlawed. Valentine was incarcerated. During his imprisonment, he helped and ministered to Christians who were often harshly treated, beaten and tortured. He also befriended and restored the eyesight of the blind daughter of his jailor. It was a miraculous healing. It resulted in jailor’s daughter and forty-six family members coming to faith in Jesus and getting baptized.
Before his execution on 14 February 270 AD, Valentine wrote a farewell letter to the jailor’s daughter who was no longer blind. And he signed off his letter with, “From your Valentine,” which became the expression still in use today.
The third Valentine was also a martyr in the Roman province of Africa.
In reading the origin of Valentine’s Day, I realized that the spirit of Valentine was not the receiving of cards, roses and chocolates. Rather it is the giving of oneself.
It reminds me of Jesus who gave of Himself for us. He died for my sins, even the sins of the whole world. He rose again from the dead and made us the promise, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
For me, He is my Ultimate Valentine!